Field Studies for Roman Groundlings
Today has been a day devoted to getting organised ahead of the new term here at the BISC, which begins on Sunday (11th May). Now that I’m returned from holiday, in body at least, I must confess to having initiated an environmental catastrophe by photocopying what looked at times to have been an endless stream of syllabi, assignment outlines, resources for students, and forms.
I should add, at this point, that much of this is available to students in paperless, online format, but on some level I can’t wholly dispense with the hard-copy version. I may be posting a blog entry here, you know, but in the seminar room I seem to be a little more analogue than that action might suggest!
Still, getting all this material together has been a way of thinking about some of the teaching that lies ahead. Some of this, as always. is a case of re-familiarising myself with things taught last year, but in other areas it’s about introducing new material into an existing course: the part of teaching that I really enjoy because it’s often the means by which research and teaching come closer together.
This term, my Shakespeare classes are going to have a classical theme. This is not unrelated to the fact that the Globe Theatre is having a very Roman season (‘Titus Andronicus’, ‘Julius Ceasar’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ all scheduled) which makes it much easier to study a play and then see it performed. It also, though, enables me to bring some of my recent ‘Roman’ reading into the classroom: not because I’m planning to write on Shakespeare myself, but because I want students to feel that for him, as for more recent writers and artists, the classical world was a constant point of reference that could be called upon to provide everything from a good story to a complex political analogy. The great thing about Shakespeare, of course, is that whatever he uses he makes his own and imbues with a whole new level of resonance. His Roman authors weren’t just men dead for centuries; they were sources of inspiration whose world could still echo to the residents of late-16th century London, and his plays are as concerned with the realities of their own time as with their historical content. I’ve not seen any of these works performed at the Globe, and am excited by the thought of standing in the yard when Mark Antony stands up and asks me (as audience member and, by implication, part of the Roman populace) to ‘lend him my ears’ while he laments Caesar’s downfall. I’ve been lucky enough in the past to know that those kinds of moments happen frequently at the Globe. It really is an amazing space for bringing Shakespeare and his work into focus. Printing out the syllabus today, I felt excited by the thought of taking students there again. And also, really rather lucky, to be doing such things as part of my job.