Dr. William (Rusty) Jones is an associate professor in the Department of English and Philosophy, and his book entitled, Satire in the Age of Elizabeth I: An Activistic Art, is scheduled to be published late 2017 from Routledge Press. This book was conceived from his interest in the way that different modes of satire (literature, film, TV, paintings, cartoons, graffiti, political slogans, etc.) negotiate shifts in the social conditions they use for raw material. There has not been a book on Renaissance English satire for nearly fifty years, and the books that have touched on the subject tend to see satire as shaped either by history or by literary precedent. Dr. Jones argues instead that satire is, by nature, engaged with its social world in an “activistic” way, meaning that the satirist who chooses to ‘put on the armor and begin the attack,’ as Juvenal writes, intends to shift the public image of a particular target or targets society holds dear, and by doing so, to effect real social change.
In this book, Dr. Jones examines examples of activistic satire as diverse as Syrian and Egyptian efforts to create shameful images of controversial leaders such as Bashar Assad and Abdul al-Sisi, the caustic, cynical verse satires banned by Queen Elizabeth I’s religious censors, and the anti-feminist satires that targeted Secretary Clinton during the recent U.S. presidential campaign. He hopes that this study will shed new light on the role satire and satirists have played during important events across time and across cultures.
In addition to his upcoming book publication Dr. Jones has been the Chair of The Murray Shakespeare Festival since 2010 and has done a wonderful job coordinating the festival for seven years. On the surface, his job might seem a bit dull (taking care of the budget, booking shows, arranging special events, etc.), but Dr. Jones finds the work immensely gratifying. Since the festival’s inception in 2001, the festival has entertained literally thousands of people from across the Jackson Purchase region and beyond, from middle and high school students, to Murray State students, faculty, and staff, to visitors from other universities, and finally, to members of the general public, old, young, and everything in between, which is amazing, to say the least.
Dr. Jones finds the most gratifying part of the festival is to watch young people trudge up the steps of Lovett Auditorium to see a performance of Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Macbeth like they’re heading for a funeral. And then, almost miraculously, they emerge after the performance wide-eyed and excited to talk to anyone and everyone about the experience they’ve had, the characters they’ve grown to love, and the range of ideas dramatized before their eyes. Dr. Jones says “Shakespeare’s timeless stories exert a powerful influence over our imaginations to this day, and it is my privilege and gift to be allowed to help bring these stories to our community.” This March, the festival once again welcomes back the amazing acting troupe from The American Shakespeare Center (Staunton, VA) and their performances of the stirring tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, and the hilarious comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Dr. Jones received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1999 and 2004, respectively, and he taught at UCSC and San Francisco State University before coming to MSU. Dr. Jones’ scholarship and teaching focus on the works of William Shakespeare, early modern poetics, and satire from the classical, early modern, and modern eras. He has two children, Brynn and Patrick, and has been married to his wife, Lis, a Hospice Nurse at Murray Calloway County Hospital, for twenty-five years. Before embarking on his academic life, Dr. Jones wrote for the ABC comedy series, America’s Funniest People, appeared in numerous television commercials, and toured the U.S. with a stand-up comedy troupe for four years. One of Dr. Jones’s fondest memories is playing bagpipes at the impromptu funeral for Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, an accomplishment that landed him on newspaper covers and on Mr. Garcia’s Wikipedia page.
The College of Humanities and Fine Arts would like to congratulate Dr. Jones on his book publication, his outstanding teaching, and the success of The Shakespeare Festival. The festival’s events begin on Thursday March 2; go to www.murraystate.edu/shakespeare for a complete listing of events and performances for the 2017 Shakespeare Festival.