Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stella's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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To take a Shakespeare course, or not to take a Shakespeare course. That is the great dilemma. Dear nonexistent younger sibling, I sure care a lot about you, even though I've never met you. That's why I'm here to impart a little sisterly wisdom upon you. I just finished taking a Shakespeare course at BYU and while it seemed somewhat daunting at first, I now feel as if the Bard and I are kindred spirits.

So, first of all my Shakespeare experience this semester was definitely non-traditional and while I'm typically disinclined to use any form of social media, I was required to use a social app on my phone to discuss the texts we read with my peers. I hardly even use Facebook. It's impressive that I'm even friends with our other siblings. For some reason I can never find you on Facebook though . . . strange. Anyways, I gradually began to realize that the social app, Slack, actually greatly enhanced my reading of the texts, as my peers were able to provide ideas that I had never even considered before. Some of the ideas that were bounced back and forth between myself and my peers actually resulted in questions that I proceeded to research for my papers this semester. While your professor might not use a social media app to facilitate your discussions, I would find someone in the class who you could converse with or even text with as you read your assigned texts!

We also read all of our texts on the Kindle app. First of all, my back appreciates my "smartphone" experience this semester, as the Professor came in with a rather intimidatingly large novel the first day of class and then presented us with the option of using the Kindle app instead. I don't regret this. You know that I am a bibliophile and that I love the smell and feel of a book, but I began to realize the advantages of using the Kindle app as a means of studying Shakespeare! I could highlight the passages I loved or wanted to investigate into the meaning of a little more, and then easily revisit these passages later. This was a HUGE asset when I was required to write my papers, as different themes were highlighted in different colors and it was easy to find the passages I wanted to include in my paper.

I know you're thinking "okay, but how can I contribute to the vast research that has already been done and Shakespeare and all his works?" I have toured the vastly inauspicious shelves of the library, and I too wondered how I would ever find a topic that had not been absolutely exhausted. Yet our use of social media in studying Shakespeare helped me to recognize that our contemporary world still explores Shakespeare through modern means. I did a rather traditional character analysis for my final paper, but there were many students who explored how Tumbler or even Pinterest affect or even transform our understanding of Shakespeare's timeless texts.

We were heavily encouraged to use non-traditional sources throughout the semester, so as I researched my own paper one of my favorite non-traditional sources were audiobooks and theatrical productions that were posted on YouTube. Both audio and video performances can be your best friend, as these are plays that are intended to be SEEN, not simply read! So get out there and watch performances and see how they are able to enhance your understanding of the plays you read. Even pictures were helpful as I cited them in my paper, as they helped to convey my argument in a visual manner.

I know you've probably fallen asleep by now, but perchance you are still not convinced that you should enroll in a Shakespeare class, I want to tell you about one of my favorite experiences this semester. After reading Henry V, we watched several short clips from different films in class and we interacted on a google doc as we watched the videos. We wrote down our observations concerning the lighting, acting, props, dialogue, and the camera angles and shots and interpreted how these different elements contributed to the play's meaning. I LOVED this in-class assignment!

Well, this class should be added to your schedule by now. I know that you'll learn to love the bard just as much as me, dear non-existent younger sibling. He's a pretty funny and dramatic dude, so he'll probably catch you off guard quite often.

Love ya!

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