Honors Theses

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Ivo Kamps

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has quickly situated itself as a major facet of popular culture. The prevalence of Shakespeare on YouTube is fascinating considering the diversity of the videos found, and the tremendous audience response to these clips. Is YouTube helping or hurting Shakespeare's reputation? This thesis explores this question through the lens of Pierre Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital. The argument is that amidst the process of reinvention, a redefining of what is Shakespeare is occurring. The support provided is framed through numerous video analyses, that cover a wide range of topics including: Shakespeare in education, Shakespeare in advertising, the question of authorship and the perception of art, Shakespeare for youth culture and the postmodernist movement, and questions of finality in Shakespeare's plays and the destruction of cultural capital. Like any other type of capital, cultural capital can be created or destroyed. The examples of Shakespeare on YouTube not only illustrate separate instances of this phenomenon, but the overall effect that it is having on the perception of Shakespeare. The term popular culture has been made unclear by its frequent use, relation with the media, and negative lowbrow stereotypes. Shakespeare was written for all audiences, and the idea that Shakespeare exists strictly for high culture is a result of the treatment it has received in the past. The Shakespeare that pervades the popular mind is a market-driven product, and YouTube is providing an avenue for the further democratization and demystification of Shakespeare today, while contributing the perception of universality.

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