Saturday, June 13, 2009

TSS - Preview of Posts to Come (Part 1)

I have spent most of the past two weeks pre-reading the books for my two summer school classes. As I wrote earlier, I will not post reviews of these books until I actually have actually had the class that discusses the book. That way I can also provide teacher insight and student comments along with my personal review.

I thought you might be interested in knowing what books will be discussed in the upcoming weeks (I will be in class in Asheville, NC from Tuesday, June 16 through Thursday, July 30) and you can decide whether you might be interested in reading the upcoming reviews.

I originally planned on this being a one-post topic, but quickly realized that there is too much information for one posting. So....this entry will focus on my Shakespeare class and tomorrow's entry will focus on the writing class.

We are reading 4 plays for the Teaching William Shakespeare course. A portion of the course description reads: The aim of this course is to work with teachers to develop methodological and interpretive approaches that are easily integrated into thier syllabi......Issues to be explored include: how to read Shakespeare script; Shakespeare's themes - universal and parochial; film vs stage; and teaching for the poetry and interpreting for the performance. The 4 Shakespearean plays that will be reading include:
Macbeth - this is a play that I have taught for the past 4 years. However, everything that I teach has been gleaned off the internet and I am very interested in learning more about this play from an academic expert. Macbeth is a great action-packed play that shows the quick demise of a promising ruler due to unbridled ambition. If you haven't read Macbeth, I believe it is a fairly easy play to read, understand, and relate to. Lady Macbeth is a strong female character, although not someone that I would consider a close friend (the expression - keep your friends close and your enemies closer would be apt dealing with her).
Midsummer Night's Dream - I have also taught this play for the past 4 years, most recently to a group of 8th graders who truly enjoyed the experience and even though they had fun - they actually were learning Shakespearean language (but shhhh! -- don't tell them that they actually learned something. That would take the fun out of the experience). This play is funny is so many areas - farsical - bawdy - and romantic. It truly has it all, and again, would be a great entry into Shakespeare if you haven't read the Bard for a while (warning: ACT III is very confusing - but it is meant to be. Keep a handy list of characters and just keep in mind WHO is supposed to be coupled with WHOM by the end of the play)
The Tempest - I was totally unfamiliar with this play prior to reading it last week. It is GREAT. To me the most amazing aspect of the play is that it takes place within a 3 hour time period - so basically as long as it would take to perform this play, that is how much time passes within the story. The play has humor - suspense - fantasy - and a happy ending. How can you go wrong with this?
The Merchant of Venice - I read this play in high school -ever so many decades ago - and really remembered nothing except the characters of Portia and Shylock (who could forget those names?) I have very mixed emotions about this play. One the one hand - I LOVED the courtroom scene - incredibly suspenseful, surprising and intriguing. I have a real problem with the anti-semitism of the play. I am hoping that the professor will shed some light on this subject that will help me understand the offensive tone in this area.
As I voiced earlier in the week, I had originally thought that this course might focus more on how to make Shakespeare fun and relatable to a high school audience. From that perspective, I thought the course might center around hands-on activities rather than in-depth critical analysis. While I do not enjoy acting/performing in front of a group, I have psyched myself up for this type of learning experience. I am now second guessing myself and am afraid that perhaps I am in over my head. We shall soon see.


  1. Your reading assignments sound a little heavy for me. Make sure you check out Malaprop's while you're in Asheville - it's a great bookstore with lots of author events.

  2. Hi, Molly! I love Shakespeare. Took up two post-grad courses on him. And these are great plays you're reading.:)

    I wish my post-grad courses tackled how to teach them to high school students, though. For the most part, they did focus on critical analysis.

    I've been teaching Macbeth for 6 years now and the students usually take to the self-fulfilling prophecy angle of the story and all of the dramatic and situational ironies.

    I used to teach Merchant of Venice, too, which I love. But mostly because, during our grad school discussions and readings, we realized that Merchant of Venice is not as anti-Semitic as it appears. For instance, the most lucid and moving speech in the play is Shylock's (To bait fish withal...). And Portia isn't as perfect as she seems (take note of her rejection of all of her suitors, who all happen to come from foreign lands, and her comment about the Prince of Morocco's color of skin.)

    Shakespeare set the play in Venice, during a period of strong anti-Semitism. But even though Shylock is somewhat made out to be a villain, he isn't completely one. He has a reason for his actions--because Antonio called him a cur, spit on his beard, etc.

    I just thought it was magnificent that these characters weren't all they appear to be--that what happens to Shylock is so obviously a deficiency in Venetian society at that time, that Portia acts like a bigot even before she meets Shylock, that all we know about Antonio is that he's a simpering fool. And that Shakespeare used comedy to bring an age-old issue to the forefront and yet be smart enough not to give definite answers.

    Anyways, I'm babbling now. Hope you enjoy your class, though.:)

  3. I am looking forward to your posts with all the commentary. Maybe I will be enticed to read some Shakespeare.

  4. I haven't read much Shakespeare, but I look forward to learning more through your posts!

  5. Wow! Keep us informed on how this goes. I'm not always real big on "acting" the scenes out with high school students, as they have to be SO well set up to fly just right. My AP kids love doing reader's theater-type stuff though. Now that I say that though...I wonder if you could set up scenes ahead of time for those same students, and they have to prep them ahead of time, to act out in front of the class? You're making me think...keep us posted!

  6. This looks like a lovely course. Shakespeare has always been one of my favorites - sometimes I wonder if it's because I was exposed to his works so early. I had an unconventional English teacher in elementary school. She taught us The Merchant of Venice when I was in grade 6 (and Great Expectations in grade 7 - Dickens is another one of my favorites). She was an amazing teacher and I have always loved Shakespeare from that time on.


Related Posts with Thumbnails