Early musings on a project

(Sorry this post is late—I accidentally just saved a draft instead of actually publishing. Mea culpa!)

As I’ve said before, I want to stay focused on Shakespeare’s plays and early modernity. That said, I also want to prioritize usability and pedagogy. In other words, I want the final product to be student-focused and simple—a simple, functional resource that teachers and students can use to explore Shakespeare. On that note, I have a lot of big ideas and grand plans for this project, many of which I suspect will be pared down. To keep this post relatively simple, I’m going to outline two fairly nebulous ideas/plans

1. My initial thought was that I wanted to create an annotated version of Shakespeare’s plays—something akin to genius.com.

This annotated play would be:

a) Clickable: the finished annotated plays would be rife with hyperlinks that connect readers to explanatory research, pictures, and stories that contextualize the lines and play. For example, clicking the witches’ chant in Macbeth might lead to an explanation about James I and his insane obsession with witchcraft, while clicking the flowers that Ophelia describes in Hamlet would lead to a sidebar with pictures and explanations of what those flowers represented in Shakespeare’s time.

b) Interactive: complex or archaic words, terms, and phrases would also be clickable, leading to definitions and explanations. In my dreams, there would also be a personal annotation function (like hypothes.is) that allows individuals to highlight/take notes on whatever they choose.

c) Audible: in a perfect world, there would also be a recorded dramatic reading of each annotated play. Playing this recording would help readers get a feel for the emphasis and audio quality of the play itself.

The more I thought about this plan, however, the more unreasonably ambition it seems. Even annotating just one play would be almost absurdly difficult—a Herculean task that might outpace both my abilities and the limits on my time.

2. This, of course, lead me to my second idea: a timeline of adaptations of Shakespearean plays, framed as a resource for teaching Shakespeare. Each play would have its own timeline, mapping the various iterations, interpretations, and versions of the play diachronically. For example Hamlet‘s timeline would includ both Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Brannagh’s Hamlets, as well as Disney’s The Lion King. Macbeth would include Mac Beth and Throne of Blood, as well as other adaptions. Each entry would include basic metadata and information about the adaption (writer/producer/director/etc.), as well as thematic context (historical set, fascist set, lions, etc.). Ideally, each adaptation would have searchable tags, so that students or users could seek out specific kinds of adaptions. For example, a student who wanted to research South African adaptations of Shakespearean plays could simple search “South Africa,” and all adaptations from that region would come to the fore (for example, Welcome Msomi’s uMabatha or Pieter-Dirk Uys Macbeki, both adaptations of Macbeth). Making these timelines feels more doable than annotating entire plays; the timeline format consolidates and organizes the adaptations in a coherent way. Further, the cultural hegemony of Shakespeare means that each of his plays, as well as their adaptations, are well established in the scholarly record. Collating and lightly analyzing the adaptations would be work intensive, but not impossibly overwhelming. The major hurdle would be software, but there are many timeline programs online, and I am lucky enough to have a roommate who can code, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .

Currently, I’m leaning towards the latter project, not least because of scope. That said, I’m very open to feedback!!

1 thought on “Early musings on a project”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Emma. I agree that of the two project ideas you had, the second seems more feasible and clearly focused. The first could go on forever. What I like is that there is a pedagogical opportunity that unites both approaches: you want to make it easier for folx to more fully engage with Shakespeare.

    The second, however, adds the layer of interpreting other interpretations, perhaps even more so than the original texts. There’s value in this, but it does add a layer of complexity with which you need to be comfortable.

    An environmental scan is a necessary first step here. Lots has been produced on both how to teach Shakespeare and how Shakespeare has been studied. You’ll need a solid understanding of that landscape to be able to best articulate how your intervention fits in.

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