Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: August ::
Re: Syllabi and Papers
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 503.  Wednesday, 25 August 1993.
 
(1)     From:   John Ottenhoff <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Aug 1993 10:17:45 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0501  Q: Syllabi and Papers
 
(2)     From:   Ronald Dwelle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Aug 93 13:08:00 EST
        Subj:   Copy/comment papers
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ottenhoff <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Aug 1993 10:17:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 4.0501  Q: Syllabi and Papers
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0501  Q: Syllabi and Papers
 
>1) How many plays do you read in your Shakespeare course during the
>semester?
 
Last winter, in an upper-level undergrad Shakespeare course I taught
12 plays--1 a week after getting introductory stuff accomplished.  Yes,
some of my students complained that it was too much and we certainly didn't
finish most discussions, but for the most part we liked the pace.
 
>2)  How many papers do you assign?
>3)  What kinds of papers do you assign?  Are they long or short?  Do they
involve reading and responding to criticism?  Do they involve performance?
 
I had students writing in 3 different modes:
 1)for each play they contributed responses to a computer conference (on the
Vax), sharing responses to class discussions and issues raised by me or
classmates (computerphobes submitted a 1-page response statement);
 2)twice during the term each student had to read a critical article, be ready
to introduce the critical position into the class discussion, and write up a
brief paper summarizing and analyzing the article.  This assignment helped a
lot with class discussions;
 3)and I had them write a longer paper, preferably one that concentrated on
the critical literature, but performance or pedagogy (I had lots of future
teachers) were options.
 
John Ottenhoff/Alma College
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronald Dwelle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Aug 93 13:08:00 EST
Subject:        Copy/comment papers
 
In response to Mr. Schiffer's questions:
 
For our sophomore/junior Shakespeare course, I normally teach 5 or 6 plays,
always one history, one comedy, one tragedy, one romance, and then whatever
else strikes my fancy for the semester. I've done this at three colleges in the
last 20 years and have always assumed it was standard.
 
What I've been doing lately is some unusual writing assignments, and I'd like
to recommend them for others to consider. For years, I assigned the normal two
short critical papers and one longer (quasi)research paper, but I became
increasingly dissatisfied with the results since the students seemingly were
not "getting" Shakespeare. (I also thought things were getting worse--for the
usual blame-TV, drugs, self-centeredness, aging-teacher reasons.)
 
After considerable experimentation and failure, I've arrived at a simple
writing exercise which seems to work well. I require the students to write
daily (that is, twice a week, for a Tuesday/Thursday class). They must first
copy a passage of our current play ("Choose a part that you think is really
good"), for 15 minutes. Then, for 15-25 minutes, they must "respond" to the
passage they've copied. I insist that they say something about both the content
and the style of the passage, but otherwise leave things wide open. I "grade"
these things rapidly, giving 0-10 points (add 'em up at the end of the semester
and there's your grade), with the peculiar wrinkle that if they make ANY
mistake in the copying, I will grade the writing "5" (which of course is a low
F).
 
I am amazed at the results.
 
On one hand, I am shocked to learn the variation in background and knowledge in
what seems to be a homogeneous group of middle-class students. For example,
several dozen times in the last few years I've had students append a little
question at the end of their comment: "Why does Shakespeare begin each line
with a capital letter?" Many don't recognize or understand how anything
unrhymed can be poetry. Others (often not English majors) plunge into metaphor
and image analysis that is stunningly interesting to me--I credit the close
attention to the text during copying as the springboard for this good stuff.
 
The most positive thing is that the students use their written commentary as
the beginning point for class discussion, and this has turned my undergraduate
Shakespeare classes into an absolute joy, besides being a hell of lot less work
than preparing/modifiying lectures or trying to figure out discussion-starters.
Each student seems to come into the classroom having just made a discovery of
something new or significant to them in the text and (if I can just keep my
mouth shut) they will tell it to the other 29 people there, in considerable
detail.
 
The downside of the assignment is that I have lots of handwritten papers to
read (I find that the copying must be done in handwriting, ala the French comp
methods, and not on typewriter or word processor, or it won't work). But, as I
said, I can read them fast, mark them hardly at all, and my total work is about
the same as the old two-short and one-long paper grading burden.
 
What the students lose is an introduction to scholarly analysis and study,
since this approach is almost entirely critical (and I haven't found a good way
to move toward scholarship, with the copy/comment as the beginning point). But
then, I say, this is undergraduate study.
 
Please excuse my going-on here (actually, the problem is that my e-mail writing
is technically uneditable for reasons that are beyond my understanding). But I
have found so few things that really work well in 20 years of teaching
Shakespeare that I forgive myself the prolixity.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.