Do American Students Need Global Shakespeares?

Margaret Litvin
Do American Students Need Global Shakespeares?
Much recent research on intercultural Shakespeare refines or even rejects binary models of thinking about Shakespeare appropriation.  Many in the scholarly community understand, for instance, that the Prospero-and-Caliban model of postcolonial interpretation will not serve: it perpetuates the myth of original and copy, reinscribes the very center-periphery relationship it hopes to challenge, and is often not the most productive way of approaching a “local” rewriting of a Shakespearean text. However, discredited though it may be, the binary model continues to structure many of our activities, particularly teaching and theatre festival planning.  As humans, we have two eyes, accustomed to considering only two objects at a time. As teachers, we often find it easy and fruitful to show our students Text B and ask how it appropriates and revises Text A.  In the classroom, we have limited global expertise and still more limited time.
In an effort to bridge the gap between research and pedagogy, my presentation will share some specific techniques for making students at US universities – whatever their linguistic, cultural, disciplinary, and academic backgrounds and interests – grasp the concept of regionally specific interpretive traditions around Shakespeare.  These approaches, thought experiments, and assignments can help students engage in a rich and multifaceted way with Shakespeare adaptations and rewritings.  They can help students learn more about different historical periods and parts of the world. Better yet, by illustrating how a work of art responds to certain contexts, deploys certain intertexts, and conveys certain subtexts to its intended audiences, this expanded pedagogy can help them appreciate how and why any artist including Shakespeare – brings works of art into being.