Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Shakespeare Association of America

Hey, is anybody out there a member of the Shakespeare Association of America?  I just came across their site in my travels and it looked somewhat intriguing.  The dues are modest - around $100/year dependent on income level.  I'm wondering if anybody's a member who can fill me in on whether it's worth it to  a guy like me to join up?  As I'm sure you all know I'm far from a stuffy old academic when it comes to dear Will.  I'm not at all interested in reading ancient tomes and comparing notes on how the meaning of "sullied" was different in 1599 than it was in 1587. 

Is it, to put it simply, any fun?

It's probably not for somebody like me.  Part of the registration for the yearly program says, "Registrants in Shakespeare Association programs are expected to complete significant work in advance of the meeting: research papers, common readings, and bibliographic compilation, in the case of seminars; and pedagogic, scholarly, or theatrical exercises or exchanges, in the case of workshops. Seminars and workshops are appropriate for college and university faculty, independent scholars, and graduate students in the later stages of their doctoral work."  Yeah, not really me.


Lea said...

What, academics aren't fun?

I think it's a blast, but it is pretty much academically oriented, so if your interests don't lie in that direction you probably wouldn't find it worth your time.

Duane said...

Hi Lea,

Thanks for writing. I assume that academics are fun, to other academics :). Let me put it another way, I much prefer talking about modern aspects of Shakespeare (ways to teach it, using technology to do new things, etc...) than analyzing texts from 400 years ago and debating word choices. I think it's pretty interesting (damned cool, actually) that there are two Hamlets and three Lears (or is it the other way around?), and I'm not a believer in the "never blotted a line" argument, but I'm not invested enough to personally go learn the differences between them all and then argue their merits over cocktails.

Lea said...

Let me put it another way, I much prefer talking about modern aspects of Shakespeare (ways to teach it, using technology to do new things, etc...)

But there's a lot of that going on in academia -- at SAA there's always at least one session on Shakespeare and technology (for instance, online editions are often a subject of discussion) and numerous sessions on pedagogy, performance, pop culture, and other things that start with P. It's not all about word choices and annotation and textual criticism.

I still agree that if you're not really committed to professional Shakespeare criticism SAA probably isn't for you, but I do wish to point out that those of us who are aren't all like Yeats' old, learned, respectable bald heads!

Sisuile said...

I'm with Lea. SAA/professional Shakespeareans in general tend to look at the things you say you are interested as much or more than the details of word choices. We tend to look at the meanings of the word choices and, on my end of the field, what it says about broader Elizabethan and Jacobean culture. There is a definite portion of academics who look at the lasting effects of Shakespeare's work and the modern world.

If you're interested in modern perceptions of S. and how to teach so people understand it, I'd suggest using Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare as an example.

Duane said...

I like Lea's quote, I was definitely (and mistakenly) equating academics and "old, learned bald heads" :).

Personally I did not love Asimov's book, at least not for the way I prefer to approach the subject of Shakespeare. I've lifted the following from an Amazon review, since they don't have an inside view of the book itself:

"Shakespeare wrote fifteen plays which, in one way or another, involve English history. Four of these are laid in the relatively dim time prior to the Norman conquest in 1066, and the one which deals with the oldest and the most purely legendary events is KING LEAR."

Asimov then traces the original Celtic tale to Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britanniae" (1135), then through "The Faerie Queene", Holinshed's "Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland", (1577), Edmund Spenser's play "The True Chronicle of King Lear", (1594), and finally to Shakespeare's version, first performed on 26th December, 1606.

What Asimov does NOT do here is discuss possible symbolic interpretations or textual criticisms of each play, (e.g., was King Lear really mad, was he incestuous, is this simply a morality play, a Platonic-Aristotelian conflict, or the perennial youth vs. maturity conflict? etc..).

I look at it more from the angle of, "I'm trying to convince my neighbor to go see King Lear with me, and he says, What's it about and why would I like it?" I am NOT going to launch into a discussion of Holinshed's Chronicles, and I most definitely AM going to focus on the whole madness thing, morality, the fact that there are several different versions of the ending, and so forth.

Asimov's take is highly fact driven, which is great if that's what you want. I might like it for myself. But it doesn't strike as the ideal book for the "Convince me that Shakespeare doesn't suck" crowd, which is my own personal holy grail (don't anybody say "No Fear Shakespeare", that nonsense gives me ulcers :-/).