The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0454. Saturday, 12 April 1997.
From: Bill Griffin <
Date: Friday, 11 Apr 1997 16:45:56 -0400
Subject: Survey Of Undergraduate Teaching Of Shakespeare
In an attempt to find out how Shakespeare is taught to undergraduates, I
surveyed the members of the Shakespeare Association of America in the
fall of 1995 on their undergraduate teaching. Results of this survey
will be published this spring in the spring issue of Shakespeare and the
Classroom, published at Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio, 45810.
Now I'd like to ask members of the SHAKSPER list to respond to the same
survey. The questions may look more complicated than they are, mostly
because I spend some time putting them into context. I've numbered the
actual questions. Please respond to them in the length you feel
appropriate and feel free to insert responses directly after questions.
If you would be interested in receiving a copy of the outcome of this
study, let me know and I'll be happy to send you one. Please let me
know, too, whether you would be willing to be interviewed at some later
time about your teaching.
Thank you in advance for responding to this survey. If possible, I'd
like to have your responses by the middle of May. Send them to:
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA 23284
3) When and where did you receive your graduate training?
4) How long have you been teaching undergraduate Shakespeare courses?
Articles in recent teaching issues of Shakespeare Quarterly reveal a
range of goals or emphases for Shakespeare classes: In some classes,
students learn to examine critically ideological frameworks they
encounter in their study, in others to read and interpret the plays, in
others to develop their own answers to disturbing questions raised by
the plays, and in still others to understand and enjoy Shakespeare in
5) What are the goals or purposes of your undergraduate Shakespeare
APPROACHES TO TEACHING:
In Teaching Shakespeare Today, Ed. James E. Davis and Ronald E.
Salomone, Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1993, Robert F. Willson, Jr., describes how
he encourages students to make connections (among situations, types of
characters, themes) as they analyze Shakespeare's growth as a dramatist
(48-57), while Ronald Strickland tells how he juxtaposes texts (e.g., a
high school and college text of Romeo and Juliet) in order to examine
the institutional assumptions and conceptual frames that have shaped
Shakespeare as a body of knowledge (168-79). My own approach has
evolved from one that worked from the outside in, beginning with a
thesis about a thematic or structural pattern which I then tried to lead
students to see, to one that operates from the inside out: Beginning
with questions about particular moments (what is this speaker feeling,
how is this character reacting, etc.), we gradually work our way outward
to larger shapes and patterns.
6) What is your approach to teaching Shakespeare in undergraduate
In his introduction to the Summer 1990 teaching issue of SQ, Ralph Alan
Cohen notes that current political and critical perspectives have
"problematized" the teaching of Shakespeare.
7) How has your current teaching of undergraduates been influenced by
some of the more recently developed critical approaches such as
semiotics, deconstruction, feminism, object relations psychology, new
historicism, cultural materialism, etc.?
8) What methods and/or combination of methods are most congenial to your
style of teaching Shakespeare to undergraduates?
A) Lecture: When do you lecture and why? Do you, for example, lecture
on theatrical and cultural contexts for the plays; do you give
introductory lectures to the plays being studied?
B) Discussion: How do you make use of class discussion? Is your
purpose in a discussion more to lead students to see a point or more
just to stimulate them to raise questions?
C) Performance: What performance strategies (if any) do you use in
teaching the plays? What are you able to accomplish by using in-class
D) Film: Do you use film to teach Shakespeare? If so, how and when do
you use it?
E) Computers: Do you use computers in teaching? If so, how?
F) Writing Assignments: What kinds of papers do you generally assign
and what do you expect students to be able to do in these papers?
Here are three statements about the value or importance of studying
"Perhaps the most important lesson we learn, if we can, is what it feels
like to be someone else." Harry Levin
". . . to increase what we know so as to heighten our sense of
excitement and awe before what we know we can never know." Homer Swander
"The importance of Shakespeare's plays for me . . . is that they allow
us, in 'a local habitation,' to understand more fully, to feel more
deeply, questions that, in other habitations, touch us all. . . ."
Michael J. Collins
9) What is your sense of the value or importance of Shakespeare in an