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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: Teaching Shakespeare (Part 2)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0681. Thursday, 14 September 1995
 
(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Sep1995 11:06:45 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0677  R: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
 
(2)     From:   C.C. Warley <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Sep 95 15:35:19 EDT
        Subj:   Shak & Undergrads
 
(3)     From:   Roger D. Gross <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Sep 1995 18:00:30 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   condescension by teachers
 
(4)     From:   Kathleen Kendrick <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Sep 1995 11:10:56 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0672 Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
 
(5)     From:   Christine Couche <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Sep 1995 14:33:29 +0800 (WST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0677 Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Sep 1995 11:06:45 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0677  Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0677  Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
 
I haven't taught a Shakespeare class but have been in many and have to report
that if, on the first day, I was treated to a film clip from Star Trek and
required to speculate on a television writer's belief that Shakespeare would be
perfomed by an android, I would want to dig a little, little grave and creep
in.  I would be taking the course hoping that, at least here, I could avoid
Star Trek and its ilk and that, at least here, I could escape from the third
rate.  I would feel patronized and become sullen and walk in dread lest one day
I arrive in class and find that I am required to view "My Own Private Idaho."
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C.C. Warley <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Sep 95 15:35:19 EDT
Subject:        Shak & Undergrads
 
I'm surprised to see Robert Applebaum, who has made such eloquent pleas for
Marxist criticism of Shakespeare, make a distinction between a "commodified"
Shakespeare and a "substantial" Shakespeare.  The opposition that seems lurking
in his reply is between a "commodified" teacher and a "substantial" student, as
if the experience of students was somehow more "authentic": as if the
groundlings knew something that everyone trapped in their position "on high"
didn't.  If we (correctly, of course) critique teachers for essentializing
themselves, let's not do it by essentializing students; if we critique older
criticism for essentializing "humanism," let's not do it by essentializing
"subversion."
 
Christopher Warley
Rutgers
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Sep 1995 18:00:30 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        condescension by teachers
 
Warnings from Fiona Quick, Robert Appelbaum, and John Boni about the dangers of
condescension are well taken.  There is plenty of condescension by teachers out
there.  I've come across   much more of it than I expected.  Most of my
experience of it has come in secondary schools.
 
For five years, Patricia Relph and I have toured our two-actor show,
SHAKESPEARE'S GREATEST HITS to the secondary schools and junior highs of
Arkansas and surrounding states.  It's a fifty minute show of monologues and
dialogues linked by talk about what it is in Shakespeare that moves so many
people to call him the greatest of all English writers.
 
Many Arkansas schools (no, most of them) are some distance off the beaten path
and, we often find ourselves playing to students who have never seen a live
dramatic performance of any kind.  Very few of them have read or heard any
Shakespeare.
 
Typically, the English teacher will come to us just before we begin and, with
our best interests at heart, warn us that, sadly, the students will not
understand us or be interested.  The teacher always promises to try to keep
them quiet; that's the most that can be hoped for.
 
Then we do our turn and, to the amazement of the teachers, the students get it
and they like it.  I don't think we condescend in any way.  We take it for
granted that Shakespeare IS interesting and that a good actor can make it clear
to anyone, despite the "language barrier".  We find the students completely
willing and eager and able to grasp the conventions and connect with the drama.
 
Interestingly, the student favorite is usually a sonnet ("Being your slave,
what should I do but tend/Upon the hours and times of your desire?) I do that
sonnet as one of the sequence which makes up "the four stages of love".  I go
into the audience and deliver it very personally to a female student, which may
account somewhat for its impact.  When the sonnet isn't the favorite, the
nunnery scene from HAMLET usually is.
 
I'm very sad to see so much condescension (in the form of low expectations)
from these teachers but I don't think it is because they are pompous or because
they don't care.  I think they have been beaten down so thoroughly by the awful
conditions in most junior and senior highs that they are simply unable to
believe any longer that wonderful things can be done.  Patricia and I can
return to our more nurturing situations where optimism and high expectations
come easily; then we can once again sortie to the awesomely difficult world of
the lower schools. It's relatively easy for us.  I wish I knew how to revive
these good but overwhelmed teachers.
 
The teachers give us written feedback.  They say that students are eager to
talk about the experience of Shakespeare our show provides.  It never occurs to
them to discuss dramatic technique, of course.  To them, the characters are
people and they want to talk about what those people did, and why, and what
they themselves would do in such situations.
 
In earlier posts, SHAKSPEReans advised us to trust Shakespeare and the
audience.  Oh, yes!  All my experience in the theatre and the schools tells me
that when we commit all our energy to understanding Shakespeare and
communicating him directly and honestly, ALL audiences are open and eager.
 
Roger Gross
U. of Arkansas
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathleen Kendrick <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Sep 1995 11:10:56 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0672 Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0672 Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
 
As an old undergrad taking a second Shakes. Class from Dr. John Boni at NEIU, I
can only say his enthusiam and sparkle re WS sell it all.  Even those hard core
cynics leave his classes exuberant.  He uncovers layer after layer of the
mystique and most of his students are now addicts.
 
On another note, I am doing a research paper on Richard III's villany, the
psychology of it, of which I feel there is plenty.  From his birth throughout
his life multiple misfortunes = evil.  Can any good sources be recommended.
Thanks in advance.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Couche <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Sep 1995 14:33:29 +0800 (WST)
Subject: 6.0677 Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0677 Re: Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates
 
I would like to humbly back up the other SHAKSPERians who have decried the use
of gimmicks to enthuse students about WS. My first exposure to Shakespeare was
in year 9, when we were all sat down to the BBC Romeo and Juliet. Although I
now look somewhat askance at that version from my lofty postrgrad position, at
the time it was incredibly moving - half of us (not just the females) were in
tears for a good half hour afterwards (much to the chagrin of our teacher). I
guess the real thing in performance just can't be beat.
 
Regards,
Chris Couche
 

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