Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Riley's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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Dear Rees, 

I'm thrilled that you decided to study English (I confess, I was a little taken back since I know you hate to read...). But I understand that you signed up for a Shakespeare course - which can seem a little daunting at first. But don't worry, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous. Nevertheless, I thought I’d take this opportunity to pass along some of my wisdom. 

Shakespeare and his many works are timeless and therefore lend themselves to so many different disciplines. So, if you're human and you have interests (which, if I remember correctly, you are and you do...), Shakespeare can as easily apply to your life as it has mine.

 In my Shakespeare class, my teacher emphasized the use of media; so, we read the plays via e-books, we engaged in a weekly group chats, and we used a blog to discuss our insights. The ability for Shakespeare to exist in your pocket and on your iPhone, can attest to that unquestionable timelessness. If you ever have a question, or a concern, there are hundreds of others like you who are studying Shakespeare that can be reached within minutes. For example, I wrote a paper this semester linking "Romeo and Juliet" with hip-hop. That topic may sound like a reach; nevertheless, I was able to talk with countless people (friends and strangers) about it on the internet. Shakespeare is being taught and studied around the world - and it's such an asset to tap into that shared collective experience.

Therefore, as you go about in your personal research, you can reach out to various formal and informal sources to help you formulate your thesis and provide new insights and perspectives. I would suggest that if you have a more modern take on Shakespeare (by the way, a quick search on google found tons of sources about Shakespeare and The Beatles and even some on Simon and Garfunkel *wink *wink) informal sources can help you determine how Shakespeare is being either talked about now or appropriated for modern audiences. However, formal sources can help you situate your argument around pre-existing criticism and the World Shakespeare Bibliography can help you locate those sources. However, using informal media sources can also help you in your understanding of the plays as you read them. Kindle books can let you see what passages people are highlighting in the play and what’s being said about it. Similarly, websites like Sparknotes and Shmoop can help you explicate passages which are confusing and use archaic and/or dense language.

I assure you, whatever question you may have about Shakespeare, there is someone, somewhere with the same question. So, I challenge you this next semester to interact with nontraditional sources in order to satisfy your curiosity (who knows what has been said about Shakespeare and The Beatles) and to ease your worries. Shakespeare has great potential to help us understand the world around us – but that’s only possible if were willing to have those conversations with others and share our unique insights.  

Best of luck, 

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