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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0663.  Monday, 4 September 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 01 Sep 1995 17:48:59 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0661  Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
 
(2)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Friday, 01 Sep 1995 22:03:23 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0661  Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
 
(3)     From:   Grant Moss <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Sep 1995 10:03:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0661 Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 01 Sep 1995 17:48:59 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0661  Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0661  Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
 
Opening gambit of a Shakespeare course? I tell them first off that "thou" and
"thee" are not hifalutin stuff, by totally *familiar*, and use the examle
--which always surprises them verty much-- of the Christian prayer "Our
Father.....hallowed by Thy name", in which we are NOT approaching the deity as
a far distant paterfamilias but as an immediate indwelling parent.
 
That over, the whispering and humming and praying having died down, I take them
through a few speeches from almost anything S wrote and ask them why they think
that's lasted this long in so many hearts and minds. The answers come thick and
fast, they teaching themselves in the process, and the course begins on the
next class with a look at the theatre and its traditions in that society at
that time, and how different from ours it is... yet [snore,snore...] how
similar.
 
I heard Harold Bloom on CBC Radio here yesterday, from New York, relating how
*he* teaches Shakespeare at Yale. Anyone have any thoughts on this, which is
made clear in his chapter on Shakespeare in *The Western Canon*?
 
Harry Hill
Concordia University, Montreal
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Friday, 01 Sep 1995 22:03:23 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0661  Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0661  Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
 
Dear Thomas Ellis--
 
I too am open to suggestions (this being only my third semester of undergrad
teaching, and in a similar pedagogical situation as yours). I tend to start by
asking students to write in 5-10 mins. their prejudices, or previous
impressions knowledge of what Shakespeare means, is, represents, etc (because
unlike just about any other writer Sh is known, at least to some extent, by
ALL---though maybe that will change--it hasn't yet!). This allows me a way to
find out what they need as well as geting them to talk (I save the discussion
for the second day of class) to each other as much as me--so I get to play
moderator for awhile. Issues of prejudice don't come up as much at first. I
guess it depends on which plays to use---I guess the obvious ones on prejudice
and outsiders would be MV, Othello, Tempest-- but one need not be obvious. One
could appeal to BOTTOM, FLASTAFF, DOGBERRY to address the same things. And I'm
also trying NOT to take students "suspicion" of Shakespeare for granted. I used
to, but found myself not reaching students ironically because I was TRYING to
reach them "too much." Of course i can't assume they will accept Shakespeare
carte-blanche either---You claim that you think it was "the plays themselves"
rather than any teaching method you employed. I think you're selling yourself
short, and claiming a spurious transparency....I had teachers make me HATE
Shakespeare--- I think Shakespeare as a TEXT does "help" the teacher in ways
other texts don't---which is why, of course, I want to continue to teach
Shakespeare--but I feel that it is YOU who helps make it vivid by making
connections with contemporary issues (and not the OTHELLO is O.J. SIMPSON one
per se--though i guess that could be useful at times). I also used to think I
had to heavily weigh my course to comedies out of fear the women in the class
wouldn't realize the lion was really Snug the joiner..... Just some thoughts,
chris stroffolino
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Grant Moss <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Sep 1995 10:03:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0661 Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0661 Questions Regarding Grad/Undergrad Teaching
 
Re Thomas Ellis' inquiry about teaching Shakespeare to undergraduates, I've had
some success with beginning by discussing and examining the notion that
Shakespeare is the center of the Western Civ canon.  Asking them (as a
discussion question and/or a writing assignment) *why* they think Shakespeare
became the center of the canon--what is it about these works that particularly
appealed to this culture?  This can often draw a resistant or hesitant student
into the discussion.  And while many of them may still not like Shakespeare
very much, at least they are engaging in the study of the texts.
 
Grant Moss
UNC-Chapel Hill
 

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