Teaching Shakespeare to the Skeptical Student

“It’s weird.” So goes a frequent, reluctant student response when asked to provide a first impression of a Shakespearean text. And while teachers often take this response to mean that students are disengaged, this approach misses something critical: Shakespeare is weird. In this workshop, participants will discuss strategies for teaching the aspects of Shakespeare that are most challenging for the skeptical student: the difficult language, the archaic references, and especially the ever-present weirdness. Students who struggle to understand Shakespeare’s Sonnets, for example, might just be struggling in precisely the way that those linguistic puzzles demand. (And, let’s be honest, a couple of his Sonnets just don’t make sense.) Similarly, students who default to the classic “Shakespeare is weird” have, in fact, happened upon an exciting and absurd proposition: human minds today don’t work like they did 400 years ago. By discussing Shakespeare’s most challenging texts, workshop participants will learn how, for many students already alienated by reading, it can be profoundly freeing to read something that is supposed to feel alien.