Teaching Shakespeare in Collaboration with Special Collections (#mla19 #s588)

[updated 4 January 2019 to add resources]

One of two panels sponsored by the LLC Shakespeare forum, this round table will be held on Saturday afternoon, January 5th, from 5:15 pm to 6:30 in the Hyatt Regency (Columbus EF).

Please join us for an instructive and open discussion about why and how teaching Shakespeare benefits from working with special collections. Faculty members and librarians consider a range of approaches to teaching rare materials, opening space to explore the benefits of active collaboration, specific assignments that can draw classes into new material, and the challenges of working outside one’s comfort zones.

Participants on the round table are Sarah Werner (independent scholar-librarian), Jill Gage (Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing and Bibliographer of British Literature and History, The Newberry Library), Adam G. Hooks (Associate Professor of English, University of Iowa), and Tara Lyons (Associate Professor of English, Illinois State University). [n.b. Fran Dolan will not be able to join the discussion in person as planned]

Participants will describe the courses and work they do with special collections (or the work they do in special collections with visiting classes), including details about their objectives and methods and sharing their techniques for engaging in such work. After brief 5-minute introductions from each participant, the panel will engage in a conversation about why we think it’s important that we work with special collections and what the ups and downs of that collaboration can be in terms of logistics and relationships. We will then turn to the audience to draw in your questions and best practices in teaching Shakespeare with rare materials.

If you have questions about how you might teach Shakespeare with special collections, feel free to leave a comment on the post so that we can try to address it during our conversation!


From Tara Lyons: Vest-pocket Shakespeare Project; Shakespeare and an Elizabethan Book of Prayers assignment guidelines; Close-reading Shakespeare and Early Sources

From Sarah Werner: Pedagogical exercises for working with rare materials; the Early Printed Books site as a whole offers information, illustrations, and further resources for exploring how books in the first centuries of the printing press were made.

From Adam Hooks: A range of resources including a special collections worksheet; exhibition “The Books That Made Shakespeare“; developed in collaboration with Amy Chen, “Mark,” an open educational resource game about printer’s devices.

Pedagogical Shakespeare: Text, Performance, and Digitalization (#mla16 #s591)

One of two panels at MLA16 that the Shakespeare Forum is presenting, this roundtable will be held on Saturday afternoon (1:45–3:00 pm; 14, ACC). Please join us for a stimulating conversation!

Panelists on this roundtable will address the presidential theme of “Literature and its Publics” through two recent projects: the new Bedford Shakespeare and the reimagined Norton Shakespeare. The conversation, which includes editors from both major projects, will place this work in relation to textual reception, the role of performance in the classroom, and the opportunities of digitalization. Our goal is an open discussion about members’ experience with the shifting contexts that shape Shakespeare’s publics.

Speakers: Ann C. Christensen (University of Houston, University Park), Suzanne Gossett (Loyola University, Chicago), Jean Elizabeth Howard (Columbia University), Russ McDonald (Goldsmiths, University of London), Lena Cowen Orlin (Georgetown University), Holger Schott Syme (University of Toronto), and Elliott Visconsi (University of Notre Dame)

Scales of Time and Shakespeare (#mla16 #s228)

How does time affect our experiences of Shakespeare? Come to “Scales of Time and Shakespeare” on Friday morning at the 2016 MLA convention (8:30–9:45, 6A, ACC) to learn explore how the passage of time and its conceptualization might help us approach Shakespeare’s plays.

“Inside Time in Shakespeare’s Late Plays,” Christopher D’Addario, Gettysburg College

What happens to the audience’s perceptions of the passage of time in Shakespeare’s plays when the King’s Men move indoors to the Blackfriars Theatre in 1608-9? In addition to more clearly dividing the play into five acts due to the necessity of resetting the lights of the indoor theatre, the move would also have mostly sheltered the audience from the ambient reminders of the passage of real time in the city outside, the ringing of church bells, for example, that would have colored the experience of watching at the Globe. This paper will detail the phenomenology of the theatrical experience at the Blackfriars in order to identify the specific and varied rhythms, both within the drama and in the surrounding atmosphere, that were present to spectators as they watched Shakespeare indoors. In many of these late plays, the passage of time is often dimly marked and understood by characters and the dramas themselves, suggesting a deferred or blunted sense of chronological passage. And yet, plays like The Winter’s Tale also slow time, forcing the indoor audience to attend to the localized effects of slight or more drastic temporal shifts, the particulars of psychological or seasonal temporalities.

“‘Redeeming Time’: Prince Hal’s Reformation and the Poetics of the Everyday,” Katherine Attié, Towson University

This paper argues that in representing Prince Hal’s reformation as a seemingly spectacular event concealing a gradual, constructive process, Shakespeare deflates the dramatic buildup associated with momentous time and amplifies the quiet beauty of diurnal time. Hal seems to privilege what the Greeks called kairos—qualitative time, the pregnant instant, the opportune moment, the spectacular event. However, the royal son can only break through “the foul and ugly mists” (1.2.180) of idleness by doing the opposite of his tavern cohorts—that is, by working. Labor happens in chronos—quantitative time, the orderly sequence of clocks and calendars, hours and days, months and years. Similarly, Harry’s victory at Agincourt is not the spectacular, miraculous event it seems to be. Rather, it is the payoff of hard work, of being “early stirrers, / Which is both healthful and good husbandry” (Henry V, 4.1.6-7), as the king proclaims in the crepuscular gloom before Agincourt.

The Puritan spirit of these lines suggests that Harry and his soldiers—“warriors for the working day” (4.3.110)—are laboring in their vocation, working in their calling. Most scholars have judged that Puritanism was entirely anathema to Shakespeare’s art. Nonetheless, I am suggesting that Shakespeare found something congenial to his art in Calvinist theology’s sublimation of routine, in its spiritualization of profitable labor into a sign of election. In “Redeeming time” (1 Henry IV, 1.2.195), then, Hal essentially redeems chronos, the working day that Falstaff so famously flouts. By turning daily routine into an aesthetically meaningful pattern, Shakespeare advantages the simple beauty of the ordinary, which outlasts the spectacular but evanescent beauty of “rare accidents” and which reiterates the chronological unfolding of the history plays themselves.

“One Time: Shakespeare in the Key of Anecdote,” Paul Menzer, Mary Baldwin College

Anecdotes bedevil historiography. Fernand Braudel called the anecdote “capricious and delusional,” for instance. He further opposed the anecdote to the history of important events, which are ones that “bore consequences.” And he is right, in that an anecdotal history is eventful but inconsequential. “One Time” focuses, instead, on the contranymic sense of “one time”—meaning both the timely and the timeless—to argue that the theatrical anecdotes that follow Shakespeare across the last four hundred years have as much to do with the future as with the past. Anecdotes, then, are not just a form of history, they are a form of prophecy. The “once” that launches every anecdote receives an echo from the future. “Once” calls out, and “once” again replies. Ultimately, theatrical anecdotes gather their paradoxical force by pretending to punctuality and in so doing achieving durability.