tempestsarekind: (where comedy meets romance)
Does anyone know if they've continued filming plays at the Globe for Globe On Screen since Emma Rice has been the Artistic Director? I haven't been paying much attention, since I haven't been that interested, frankly (the weird Dia de los Muertos production of Romeo and Juliet this season made me want to flip some tables, for example), but ironically - given my username and the related fact that Twelfth Night is my heart's most important text - the photos from the current production are piquing my interest:


I know production photos only tell a partial story, but wouldn't it be funny if Emma Rice managed to win me over with Twelfth Night, of all things?

ETA: Well, I read some reviews, so…I'm doubtful that the "winning over" process will happen here. I mean, who knows - I still haven't seen any of her productions, so I feel slightly bad about judging them unseen - but everything I read about them is basically everything I hate in Shakespeare productions (mainly? Not caring about the text. You can have all the bells and whistles you want, if you care about the text; and if you don't, then the bells and whistles won't save you*), so I am not super inclined to poke myself in the eye and then wonder why it hurts…

*Here's the thing. I get the sense, with Emma Rice, that she thinks Shakespeare needs the bells and whistles - not that they might be interesting, or cast new light on the text, but that no one could possibly be interested in Shakespeare without them. Every production sounds like, "Quick! Get some pop music playing, before the punters get restless! Give 'em spectacle; god knows they don't want words." And, well, I've kind of staked my intellectual life on the exact opposite principle - that we can give people access to Shakespeare by respecting their intelligence, their capacity to imagine themselves into unfamiliar worlds, their ability to respond to poetry - so.
tempestsarekind: (hamlet/horatio OTP)
Does anyone - people who have been to conferences more recently than I have, and stopped by the Arden table, for example - know anything more about the Arden Performance Editions series?


The first editions aren't due out until November in the UK - which is too late for me to order Romeo and Juliet for English 9 in any case (assuming I teach it again next year) - but I'm wondering about their layout (more space for notes!) and their "reduced punctuation." The New Cambridge edition (the one I use) is better than some about not cluttering the text up with prescriptive exclamation points, but it's still pushier about this sort of thing than I'd like; it would be nice to have an edition with notes that doesn't require me to constantly tell my students not to make arguments about tone based on the presence of exclamation points.

I also wonder - will their Hamlet be a conflated one, or will it follow the current Arden edition in being based on Q2? I'm finding that my ninth-graders are managing the density of the footnotes in R&J decently well, but the New Cambridge Hamlet's footnotes are unsettling some number of my juniors this year. But I like the ease of teaching the play from a conflated edition instead of having things like "How all occasions do inform against me" in an appendix, even though I like the availability of versions based on Q2 or F for more scholarly purposes (I also own the Arden 3 and the Oxford, the latter of which is based on F).
tempestsarekind: (viola reading (tears))
If you’ve ever struggled to read a Shakespeare play, don’t feel bad: Ian McKellen is here to assure you that reading Shakespeare is impossible. In fact, he argues, actually reading and interpreting a Shakespeare play is a task meant only for actors, in much the same way reading sheet music is a task meant only for musicians. In both cases, the audience should ideally hear the final product, not just read the behind-the-scenes text. At least that’s the thinking behind his new iPad app, Heuristic Shakespeare, which gathers together some of Britain’s best Shakespearean actors to make Shakespeare’s work more comprehensible.


I mean, the app itself sounds interesting:

But could we put this "Shakespeare never intended his plays to be read, so you are KILLING THE CHILDREN by making them have to read Shakespeare" thing to bed? I am so over it. Also, even if Shakespeare didn't intend his plays to be read - and I think Lukas Erne would argue with you on that point - John Heminges and Henry Condell were a-okay in favor of it in 1623:

But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and giue them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. and there we hope, to your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe: and if then you doe not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. and so we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your selues, and others. and such Readers we wish him.

I feel like this argument never goes the other way; I don't know anyone who teaches Shakespeare who actively discourages students from seeing the plays performed, but actors frequently declare that Shakespeare shouldn't be read, only seen.
tempestsarekind: (peddlers of bombast)
It looks like you can get the one-volume in hardcover with the option of purchasing the digital edition, but if you buy the two-volume set, you get the digital edition registration card automatically.

Snippets from the book copy on the Norton website (for the two-volume edition):

The attractive print and digital bundle offers students a great reading experience at an affordable price in two ways—a hardcover volume for their dorm shelf and lifetime library, and a digital edition ideal for in-class use. Students can access the ebook from their computer, tablet, or smartphone via the registration code included in the print volume at no additional charge. As one instructor summed it up, “It’s a long overdue step forward in the way Shakespeare is taught.”

The digital edition features all of the texts, introductions, glosses, and notes in the print book, plus additional versions of many texts for comparison. Students are able to compare the Folio and Quarto texts of King Lear and scenes from other plays using an innovative side-by-side scrolling view option. Students can also compare the text to corresponding facsimile pages from the Hinman First Folio and from the quartos. Performance Comments highlight how a director or actor’s choices in performance affect meaning, while Textual Comments focus on the impact of textual-editing decisions. Students can also listen to recordings of all of the songs in the plays and over 8 hours of specially recorded spoken-word audio by the highly regarded Actors from the London Stage. The digital edition also includes an appendix of documents, maps, genealogies, bibliographies, and a timeline.

Hmm… The digital features seem interesting, especially for teachers who don't teach Shakespeare that often; a lot of this is material that I already bring in for my students (although many of the "performance comments" are hypothetical, based on performances I've seen, rather than from actors or directors themselves). But I do a lot of Shakespeare, so I already know to make use of the Internet Shakespeare Editions for facsimile pages, and various audio recordings that I like; I can see how this would be helpful for people who don't spend as much time teaching Shakespeare as I do.

But…I think it's not necessarily fair to expect students to have a smartphone or tablet or computer to bring to class. And I worry about saying that the physical text is for use at home, and the digital edition is for in-class use - because I expect my students to take notes in their physical copy, and then bring those notes to class so that they can use them in discussion. I also expect them to add to their notes in class, which is not going to happen with the digital edition. What I think will actually happen is that they will only use the digital edition, and therefore never take notes.

The problem with digital editions, to my mind, is that no one seems to be working on improving the note-taking features. The Folger Digital Texts don't have a note-taking feature, as far as I can tell, and it doesn't seem clear whether the new Norton digital edition has one either. Which is a real problem. There are so many additional elements added to digital editions, but they're in real danger of leaving the basic elements behind. Surely learning how to take notes on a text has to be a part of "active reading"? What's going to happen when it comes time for students to write an essay or study for an exam, and they have no record of what they thought about the text? Even assuming that they take notes in class in a separate document or a notebook (which they should be doing, but…), they're unlikely to have a record of specific passages they found interesting or wanted to think more about. They won't have written down a quick summary in the margin when the class figured out a tricky passage together, so they'll have to remember it or reconstruct it, or likely just not bother. They might have excellent notes on what the teacher said was important, which is fine I guess if you just want their exams and essays to spit back exactly what they were told, but there's no push here for them to record and care about their own ideas. (I know that you can take notes on a PDF, but it's a clunky solution, and not good for fine-grained analysis of literary texts. Don't even ask me what you're supposed to do with a digital edition on a smartphone.)

I also worry that we won't give students enough time to just be alone with the text and their own thoughts and observations, if every part of the text is supplemented with digital features. I choose when to have students think about textual variants or performance possibilities in class or in their essays; this means that there is plenty of time when they don't have those elements, and they're relying on their own ways of thinking, developing their interpretive muscles. I worry that it's possible for students to lose the thread of a speech or scene if they're being pulled in different directions all the time. Actually, much of this sounds like it could create a sense of passive reading: here are more tools to do the interpretation for you. You might have to choose between one interpretation and another, one performance and another, but you don't have to come up with one yourself.

There's also a feeling of... discovery that seems to be missing from new editions of Shakespeare plays, not just digital ones. I thought I might be teaching The Winter's Tale next year (sadly, 'tis not to be), so I checked out two editions besides the one I owned, to see which edition I wanted to order for my students. I thought the Arden 3 would win, because of the thoroughness of its footnotes - but as I spent a bit more time with the text, I found that the footnotes kept making connections for the reader that I would have wanted my students to discover (or at least have the option to discover) on their own. They weren't just explanations of a tricky line, or even contextual notes about a particular word's use in other contemporary sources; they gave away recurring themes and points of analysis that I might have wanted to set an essay question about. After teaching Macbeth for a second year out of the Pelican edition, I was feeling a little bit concerned about how the notes can occasionally jump to paraphrase in ways that can be hard for students to follow because the notes have essentially skipped over a step; this came up once or twice in class this year, where students couldn't figure out how the editor had gotten to that particular understanding of a line. But after looking at the Arden 3 of The Winter's Tale with an eye toward teaching out of it rather than using it as a scholarly resource - at least there weren't any notes that gave away the fact that children are an important theme in Macbeth or that the Macbeths keep using the euphemism "business" for "murder," I guess. Because it's so lovely to watch students see those patterns for themselves - and I remember how proud I was of myself, when I noticed those sorts of things. Why remove that possibility? I suppose it's possible that not every student will notice, say, the recurrence of children in Macbeth (although it ought to come up in class at some point, right?) - but so what if they don't? What is the point of reading Shakespeare? Is it just to be told what everyone else knows, or is it to work toward whatever understandings you can uncover for yourself and with your classmates? I'm certainly not advocating for no footnotes at all, but what is the point of giving away points of interpretation in those footnotes? What is the editor trying to guard against by including such a note - and is that thing such a bad thing?
tempestsarekind: (peddlers of bombast)
Buh what?

You all know that I adore Shakespeare in Love, and part of that is precisely for the reason that James Shapiro gives in this video - that it's done a lot to "make people feel connected to, and smart, and knowing about Shakespeare" (James Shapiro mentions here that he "felt dumb about Shakespeare," and now wants to "protect young people - or old people - from feeling dumb about Shakespeare," and basically I could put this on a T-shirt and wear it as my life motto, except that I think that I'm actually terrible at this because I'm always flailing around about polyptoton and deictics and function shift).

But none of that means that I understand in the slightest why you would make the movie into a play.
tempestsarekind: (globe)
We may make it as far as Romeo and Juliet's farewell scene today ("Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day"), although I have my doubts. Still, in preparing it for discussion, I'm struck again - this has been the case throughout this reading of the play - by how alive the language of Romeo and Juliet is. Literally so, almost: the two of them make everything participate in their love affair; they personify everything, turning day and night themselves into witnesses and conversation partners and teachers ("Come, civil Night, / Thou sober-suited matron all in black, / And learn me how to lose a winning match / Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods"). Characters like the Nurse, and Lord and Lady Capulet, rely on cliches and proverbs and abstractions, but Romeo and Juliet - and this is hard to remember, because their speeches have become so famous - see everything with new eyes, question everything, ask how to make some new observation about the world. Yes, sonnets often compare a lover's eyes to stars or the lover to the sun - but Romeo talks back to the moon ("Be not her maid, since she is envious. / Her vestal livery is but sick and green, / And none but fools do wear it") and imagines that stars might hold some conversation with Juliet's eyes ("Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, / Having some business, do entreat her eyes / To twinkle in their spheres till they return"), and then still isn't content until he's explored that imaginative idea more fully: "What if her eyes were there, they in her head? / The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars / As daylight doth a lamp" (my emphasis). Juliet demands that the night listen to her, and move faster - I think she ought to *run* onstage with that first line of her first soliloquy, with that first stressed syllable unlike your usual iambic rhythm: "Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, / Towards Phoebus' lodging…" (Can we talk, as well, about the plosives in "Gallop apace"? And then the sharp, emphatic alliteration of "fiery-footed", and of "such a waggoner / As Phaeton would whip you to the west"? This girl means business.)

Which is why Romeo's final personification, of "insubstantial Death" as "amorous," breaks my heart, because it's that same imaginative energy, to the very last, but put to such a final, tragic use.

[I wrote this before class. We didn't actually get to the scene after all, but we'll start there tomorrow.]
tempestsarekind: (better a witty fool than a foolish wit)
This article doing the rounds on Twitter made me well up:


I'm fairly worried about going back into the classroom in a couple of weeks, after having all of last year off on a dissertation completion fellowship, and partly it's because I want every encounter to be transformative in this way, and yet I never see it happening. It's possible that it has and I've missed it - after all, beyond evaluations a few weeks after the course is over, we don't really get any followup with our students - and it's a gift of another sort to have had a fair number of students who already love Shakespeare or Austen or whatever I happen to be teaching. But I want my students' encounters with literature to offer them the possibility of making them different, because literature made me different - and yet I don't know how to achieve that goal. But it's lovely to read about it happening here.

In only slightly related news, I bought about sixty dollars worth of used books yesterday. *facepalm* But it was a pretty good haul! (she said, defensively.) The expensive book that tipped the scales was A Companion to Shakespeare, the Blackwell one edited by David Scott Kastan, but given that I check it out of the library all the time for one essay or another (in fact, I have it checked out right now), it seemed like a worthwhile purchase. I also picked up a paperback copy of Stanley Wells' Shakespeare & Co., two older New Mermaid paperbacks (Arden of Faversham and The Knight of the Burning Pestle), and a recent Arden edition of Everyman and Mankind. So, you know, it was a scholarly investment. Yeah.
tempestsarekind: (fraser: oh dear)
I have to teach Hamlet this week, you guys!

Hamlet gives me mental whiplash, basically: last night I was practically skipping home because I knew that I got to listen to lectures on the play, and how can life be bad when one is allowed to think about Hamlet? And then I remembered that I have to *teach* Hamlet, not just splash around in its awesome, and--yeah.

oooooooh nooooooooo.
tempestsarekind: (fraser: oh dear)
I have to teach Hamlet this week, you guys!

Hamlet gives me mental whiplash, basically: last night I was practically skipping home because I knew that I got to listen to lectures on the play, and how can life be bad when one is allowed to think about Hamlet? And then I remembered that I have to *teach* Hamlet, not just splash around in its awesome, and--yeah.

oooooooh nooooooooo.
tempestsarekind: (free radicals and tannins)
(Which is what you would say if you had a dog named "First Quarto," I guess. Oh, I'm so tired.) (I totally wanted a dog named Fortinbras, though, because the Murrys in A Wrinkle in Time had one. Fortinbras or Gobo, of all things.)


I'm supposed to teach Hamlet today, which is the last play on the summer school syllabus. And I don't wanna!

weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable )

I wish I could just hand out copies of the Hamlet performance scene in Pamela Dean's Tam Lin and then quietly tiptoe away. Fun for me, anyway, if not for them.
tempestsarekind: (free radicals and tannins)
(Which is what you would say if you had a dog named "First Quarto," I guess. Oh, I'm so tired.) (I totally wanted a dog named Fortinbras, though, because the Murrys in A Wrinkle in Time had one. Fortinbras or Gobo, of all things.)


I'm supposed to teach Hamlet today, which is the last play on the summer school syllabus. And I don't wanna!

weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable )

I wish I could just hand out copies of the Hamlet performance scene in Pamela Dean's Tam Lin and then quietly tiptoe away. Fun for me, anyway, if not for them.
tempestsarekind: (viola reading)
(I often think that a reading group with Pamela Dean's Tam Lin as the starting point, and then followed by some of the texts that get read or referenced, would be a fun time. Maybe it's just that I found myself reading Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and The Revenger's Tragedy in very short succession this term.)

But the reason I am quoting that novel's Robin today is to do with yesterday's section on Othello. It went better than I had expected, actually; after I vented about the play, I was in a much better position to be open to its merits. And because (as mentioned in my last post) we didn't have a batch of secondary materials, like we normally do, we could spend time only on the play, rather than trying to draw connections between the works and ending with me feeling that we neither generated any useful insights nor spent enough time dealing with Shakespeare's language, since we often wind up dealing with the plays in paraphrase. Yesterday, because I wasn't trying to do so many things at once, I was actually able to get them to look at some scenes, and they followed suit by directing each other to passages.

So that was an improvement, even if I don't know how to duplicate it when we go back to having supplementary materials that have to be covered. One unexpected side effect of this, though, was that I discovered that my students--at least the ones who attempted to cite passages by reading them--are not very good at reading Shakespeare out loud. By that, I don't mean that they couldn't *act* out passages, but that they read them in odd, choppy bursts, as though they were afraid that the language would get away from them at any second--as though they didn't understand the passages well enough to be able to read them aloud. I suppose this *shouldn't* have been unexpected, but I've been trying to juggle so many elements in this class that this one never occurred to me. Because I've had to force them to look at passages for most of the semester, I've been the one who reads the passages aloud (partly to save time, but partly because it's my natural inclination to read something aloud if I'm going to talk about it), which is why I guess I never noticed before. And there are too many things going on in this class to make reading out loud a priority (although I think I'm going to ask them to read more passages aloud now), but, for future classes:

How does one teach reading aloud, anyway? (This seems to be another one of those things, like close reading, that the department expects us to teach our students, without ever teaching us how to teach them. There are department prizes for memorization and speaking, but I don't think it's something we teach them to do.) I can't act to save my life, but I consider myself to be a decent reader-aloud of Shakespeare. In fact, one of the best compliments I ever got as an undergrad was from a professor who had me read the Duke's "Be absolute for death" speech from Measure for Measure at random; when I went in to talk to him about a paper topic, he said I'd produced one of the best spontaneous readings of the class (he had students do this fairly often). But I can't have always been good at this, and if I am good at it, I'm sure it comes from familiarity with Shakespeare. Is there any way to teach, or at least model, good reading aloud that doesn't depend on student affection for the text?

Or am I just being silly in thinking that this is an important skill in an English class? Is it even really a different skill? Or would greater comprehension automatically result in better reading?


tempestsarekind: (Default)

September 2017



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