Highbrow/Lowbrow: Terry Hawkes and Shakespearean Appropriation

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Terence Hawkes' insight and encouragement of the Shakespearean scholarship of his colleagues works to dismantle the distinction between elite Shakespeare and other more popular forms of artistic expression. When Sawyer first met Hawkes at the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1997, they had a lively and spirited debate about 'That Shakespearian Rag', the 1912 hit that Eliot alluded to in The Wasteland, which Hawkes used for the title of his 1986 book, and that Sawyer was currently researching in the Library of Congress. What was most striking about the encounter, Sawyer recalls, was the pitch perfect singing of a few lines of the song by Hawkes. One take away from that encounter for Sawyer was that the barriers between the elite and popular needed to be broken down in current Shakespeare studies. The second time Sawyer ran into Hawkes was at the World Shakespeare Congress in Valencia, Spain. During this conversation, Hawkes lamented the lack of humour in current Shakespeare research, asking rhetorically, 'Where are the jokes?' Hawkes helped to realign our thinking about popular culture and Shakespeare by injecting it with a healthy dose of postmodern playfulness. These two encounters led to a lasting friendship that fostered Sawyer's own engagements with popular culture Shakespeare, including publications on topics such as 'Shakespeare and Folk Art', 'Shakespeare and Country Music' and 'Shakespeare and Jerry Lee Lewis'.