Friday, December 9, 2016

Shelby's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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December 9, 2016

Dear Cooper,

\Well, you definitely surprised us all with your decision to become an English major. I had been wondering how you were even going to graduate high school without knowing how to read, but you shocked us when you managed that too. Since you’ve chosen the mother of all majors, and since there’s a big chunk of Shakespeare required for you to learn, I thought I should pass on a few bits of wisdom so that you don’t back out too soon. Remember, being an English major is fun! You always get to sound ten times more educated than all the rest of your friends!

              When I took Shakespeare from Dr. Burton in the fall of 2016, I’ll admit that I was pretty terrified about it. My prior Shakespeare experience was limited to Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade and the occasional sonnet from other classes. However, I gained a love for the Bard that I never thought was possible as I got to know his stuff a little better, and I’m sure you will too.

              My favorite thing that we did in class was to write a sonnet. I enjoyed studying Shakespeare’s sonnets, then trying my hand at it. I felt like writing in sonnet form was a puzzle that was a really fun challenge to master. Participating in Shakespeare’s work by writing your own helps you to understand some of the process that he went through and just makes it easier to understand the sonnets in general. So…do that.

              Obviously, this course is going to require a whole ton of reading, and none of it is very easy. My advice is to watch a performance of a play, such as Hamlet, before you read the play itself. I know that might sound a little backwards, but once I was familiar with the storyline from watching the play, I didn’t have to concentrate on it as much while I read the actual text. I could appreciate themes and do rhetorical analysis as I read instead of just trying to figure out what was happening. I did that when we were reading The Tempest and it was great because that play can get a little weird.

Guess what? This course is also going to require you to write a whole lot. In fact, there is a giant final paper at the end that you will probably stress over for months. If I could give you any advice on that bad boy, it’s to go talk to a librarian about your topic right off the bat. He can tell you whether it’s a terrible idea or whether you’re on to something great, and then help you come up with a thousand sources either way. I swear, all the sources I got from the librarians saved my life when I had to do it. Also, make friends in class and have them edit drafts for you in stages. That was probably one of the most useful things that I did, because my pal Isaac saw a lot of garbage that I hadn’t noticed when I wrote it.

              I know that it might sound weird to you, but don’t be afraid to look outside of the metaphorical box for more information. You are not the first person to study Shakespeare, and sources like Pinterest (which I know that you secretly have) can be really useful. Find pictures or infographics to get new perspectives on the plays, and show how Shakespeare is still relevant today. It’s possible, and it’s cool.

              Have fun in your Shakespeare class at BYU. I’m still in disbelief that you chose this over food science, but I’m very proud J If you need any help, go see Dr. Burton because he is nice and likes to geek out over Shakespeare.



1 comment:

  1. Shelby, regardless of what happens, even if he breaks your heart by changing his major, I hope you won't erase yourself from the narrative! ;) Your insights in class have been so helpful and your final presentation was absolutely EPIC!