Shakespeare in Community

Shakespeare in Community

“Discovering Shakespeare on the page, on stage, online, and in community.”

Shakespeare in Community begins as a Massive Open Online Course but it is also a massive public digital humanities event. The course will introduce a broad audience of learners to Shakespeare, as we collectively read, watch, and engage four Shakespeare plays: Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet begins with the curious and provocative line, “Who’s there?,” and these are the words that will begin our course. The line is both a literal question to the audience and a deeper question about what it means to be human. The question takes on a different set of potential meanings when it is read on the screen of a computer, iPad, smart phone, or within a MOOC, asking contemporary readers of Shakespeare to consider how their humanity is changing in the face of rapid technological changes. The goal of this Shakespeare in Community course, then, will be to discover Shakespeare while also considering together what it is for us to discover and un-cover Shakespeare in the digital age.

Ultimately, this course will be focused on building a global community around the study of Shakespeare. And so one of our central goals will be to use Shakespeare’s plays as an occasion for creating important conversations that bridge cultures, languages, and geographies. Students in the course will also increase their digital literacies, learning new tools for reading, writing, critical analysis, and collaboration. The course will be both about Shakespeare and also about the digital humanities, encouraging learners to think critically about how digital tools (including MOOCs) can be used to investigate literary texts.

While the primary instructors have 60+ years of experience teaching Shakespeare among us, we will not be serving as talking head “experts” in this course. Rather, the course will bring together a broad range of experts at UW-Madison, within the Madison theater communities, from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and around the world. Launching each week of the course will be a series of short documentaries, but the heart of the course will be the community we build among the participants. Our goal is not to teach you what we know about Shakespeare, but to help each of you find your Shakespeare.


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