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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Shakespeare Honors Seminar in a Two-Year College
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0341  Monday, 24 April 2006

From: 		Charlotte Pressler <
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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.

Charlotte Pressler
Director, Honors Program
Professor: English/philosophy
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 
another story...)

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