Shakespeare and the Screen

For many readers, Shakespeare is the ultimate TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read). His texts are full of detailed and archaic language, in contrast to the more immediate gratifications of onscreen media.

Aside: This is the stub of a course description that I’m teaching in 2016. Updated details are on the course homepage. 

Reading a book in 2016 is a radical act — both because it resists the allure of less demanding media, and because of the other sense of ‘radical,’ as a return to our media roots. Reading Shakespeare in the age of digital distraction, amid multiple screens competing for our attention, is even more so: a return to the roots of multimedia performance.

In Spring 2016 I am teaching a course on “Shakespeare and the Screen” that engages students in reading as a deliberately radical act, one that empowers them to dispense their attention more deliberately in a distracted age, and gives them the confidence to overcome difficult readings in an age of unread texts (like terms of service) or superficial texts (like listicles).

But are text and screen really at odds? This course is not a jeremiad against the digital age. We will also augment our readings of Shakespeare’s texts with filmed representations and text-visualization tools, to read screens with the kind of deliberation that we tend to pay only to printed texts.

This course considers Shakespeare’s visual representations through his history of recorded performances, before turning to his onscreen future: in social media, cinematic broadcasts, digital editions, and other adaptations. We will read and watch three of Shakespeare’s plays (Henry V, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet) in full-length films, and reflect on our interpretive work as readers of books, audiences of films, and consumers and producers of digital media.

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