Bardfilm and I were having an interesting conversation yesterday about the great divide (from where I sit) in the Shakespeare Universe. If you are not a professional Shakespearean (mostly thinking of academics and researchers, though I would have to say that full-time directors, actors, etc… would also count themselves among this group) … what do you call yourself? How do you explain your relationship to Shakespeare and his works?
From what I have seen, academia prefers to refer to us as “fans”. If you are not a professional, you are a fan.
I hate that. I am a fan of Pink Floyd. I have not spent the last twelve years of my life writing thousands of posts about how Pink Floyd makes life better. I did not tell my kids The Wall as a bedtime story growing up. I do not have an ever-growing shrine to Roger Waters on my desk at work, and I don’t celebrate David Gilmour’s birthday like it’s a near-religious holiday.
I have invested a great deal of my life, and the lives of my friends and family, in Shakespeare. People that know me know more about Shakespeare because of me. But for all of that, the way I am to describe myself (and those who feel the same way I do) as …. fans?
For fun I grabbed a random thesaurus entry for “fan” and here’s what it gave me to work with:
adherent, beau, believer, booster, boyfriend, buff, bug, cat, devotee, disciple, enthusiast, fan, fancier, fiend, follower, freak, girlfriend, groupie, hound, junkie, lover, nut, partisan, patron, rooter, suitor, supporter, swain, sweetheart, wooer, worshiper
You know what dawns on me is missing from that list?
I didn’t originally pick that word because of my computer background. It’s not supposed to be “The geek who is also into Shakespeare.” It was more about a healthy obsession with learning everything I could about the subject. What Wikipedia has to say about the word isn’t bad, actually:
The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”.
I think I agree with almost all of that. “Expert” is clearly tricky in this context because by definition we’re not trained professionals. Am I an expert? Are you? Who’s to say? But we can all probably agree on enthusiast. Obsessed? Check. I think Shakespeare qualifies as an intellectual pursuit. And I’m even ok with the pejorative stuff – peculiar and socially awkward? Well, yeah, I was that before I got into Shakespeare!
How about you? What do you call yourself when it comes up?
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