500-tweet outburst sparks faculty battle over 'King Lear'

Dive Brief:

  • University of Toronto English professor Holger Syme went overboard in his review of "The One King Lear," a text that challenges the origin story of the two versions of William Shakespeare's iconic play, "King Lear."
  • Over the course of 500 tweets composed while reading the book, Syme suggests that Vickers cast grand underestimations of Shakespeare as an artist while overstating the importance of production and printing logistics of the early 1600s. 
  • Vickers responded, calling Syme's critique a "trivialization of literary criticism, and a "bitterly sarcastic" virtual Twitter tome that avoided context and the backing of peer review. 

Dive Insight:

Everyone wins with Syme and Vickers' online bickering. Syme stands to generate coverage for an epic rant in an academic space where rants come at a virtual premium, Vickers stands to sell a few more books to skeptics and supporters who want to validate their opinions, the publisher wins free promotion, and Shakespeare wins as a timeless tale receiving new life in social media. 

But the back and forth online does put the University of Toronto in a unique position. With academic freedom becoming more of an issue in social media spaces, harsh critique of another scholar may present new territory in how universities respond to published perspectives from faculty, made in real time. Not only that, but the discourse re-opens the conversation around the weight of peer-reviewed publishing versus publishing for public consumption in 21st century academia. 

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Filed Under: Higher Ed