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'Most rare!': Teaching Surplus Shakespeare (NeMLA)

Organization: Canisius University
Event: NeMLA
Categories: Pedagogy, Early Modern & Renaissance, Miscellaneous
Event Date: 2024-03-07 Abstract Due: 2023-09-30
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As early as middle school, students learn to accept if not revere certain plays among Shakespeare’s works as canonical. Some are so ubiquitously recognizable that people know the plot through pop culture or other means without ever having read the work itself. However, there are a number of plays that are rarely recognized at all, let alone produced, read, or studied. Many history plays, for example, bridge a gap between iconic, climactic battles at Agincourt or Bosworth Field. Coriolanus is recognizably Roman, but Julius Caesar is the perennial favorite. Romeo and Juliet is a popular cultural touchstone, but who knows even the outlines of Cymbeline or Pericles? This category of play might be considered “surplus,” those works that round out a canonical list but that fail to resonate with the public, with students, and, at times, even with scholars.

This seminar asks us to rethink the utility of Shakespeare’s surplus. What can we learn from studying Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays? What can students gain from reading 2 Henry VI? How (and why) should we attend to Timon of Athens in the classroom? How should we approach the idea of collaborative authorship or a maturation chronology? This seminar seeks papers that engage pedagogical questions based around works by Shakespeare that rarely appear on Shakespeare course syllabi. Submissions might include rationale for inclusion or prioritization of these works, effective strategies for boosting student engagement with unfamiliar stories, contextualizing plays with the historical and/or contemporary moment, etc.



James Rizzi