The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0341 Monday, 24 April 2006
From: Charlotte Pressler <
Date: Sunday, 23 Apr 2006 14:36:59 -0400
Subject: Shakespeare Honors Seminar in a Two-Year College
I'd like to call on the collective wisdom of list members for
suggestions regarding a seminar for Honors students at my two-year
Florida college, which I will be teaching this fall, titled
"Shakespeare's Life and Times."
The college is in rural south Florida, meaning that some students attend
for financial reasons. It is an open-admissions college, but the
admissions requirements for the Honors program itself place it on the
"selective" level. The students will be coming from diverse background
but are likely to feel somewhat culturally isolated. They will be
lacking in historical knowledge and will struggle with the language.
However, they will have had a freshman-level introduction to literature,
which usually includes one Shakespeare play. They may also have had some
Shakespeare in their high school courses.
The seminar is formally listed as a sophomore-level interdisciplinary
humanities course, and I intend to teach it as such. (I should have
mentioned that I am the director of the Honors program, with an earned
doctorate from SUNY Buffalo in Renaissance literature, and a dual
appointment in English and philosophy.) I want to investigate a number
of plays in their Elizabethan historical and social contexts, and also
look at the reception and performance of the plays up to the present. I
believe I will start them off with classroom showings of the PBS "In
Search of Shakespeare" and want to make extensive use of its companion
website. I've selected the Norton Shakespeare and Russ McDonald's
Bedford Companion as their primary textbooks.
The plays I have tentatively selected are: Richard III (with a glance at
the Henriad), Much Ado, Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Tempest. I
want to select plays they have probably have not read, so MSND, Julius
Caesar, and Hamlet are out. I am, however, mightily tempted toward King
Lear, which has some relevance for Floridians.
I've weighted the early part of the seminar toward plays with strong
film treatments, hoping that students will grow in strength in dealing
with the plays and secondary material as time goes on.
They will be required to write five semi-formal response papers, with
citations to secondary material assigned by me. I want to be sure that
some of the paper topics are non-literary, in keeping with the
interdisciplinary nature of the course. Suggestions here are very
welcome. They will also have to make one oral presentation, which could
involve a presentation of a response paper, or a performance, with
commentary, of a scene from a play, or a comparison-contrast of film
treatments of a play.
Finally, I am asking several colleagues, as well as faculty from nearby
universities to give lectures, some of which will be open to the public,
on their specialty topics. So far, these include theater history,
Shakespeare performance in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Shakespeare
in Africa -- this last from a faculty member who grew up in Zimbabwe and
has taught in South Africa. (I'll take suggestions for others off-list
-- and thanks!)
I'll be glad to hear thoughts and suggestions, on- or off-list,
especially from those who have taught similar courses.
Director, Honors Program
South Florida Community College
Avon Park, FL
(Yes, in fact, the town is named after Shakespeare's birthplace. The
first settlers were a hopeful group of British would-be citrus farmers,
who planted just in time for the Big Freezes of the 1890s. But that's
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