This week we will be exploring the various ways “Shakespeare” has come to be adapted, studied, and enjoyed in the twenty-first century. I place our author’s name in quotations because, as we have seen over the course of our term, “Shakespeare” now means something beyond his works or biography: today we understand Shakespeare as a significant and wide-ranging cultural phenomenon.
Your assignment for class is to seek out a particularly curious, interesting, or notable example of how this “cultural phenomenon” is experienced today. This can be something from new media: a Twitter account or hashtag, a Tumblr or Pinterest page, Facebook account, etc. (Consider, for instance, the brilliant “Fuck Yeah Queer Shakespeare” Tumblr). You might look at a new or innovative adaptation of the Bard’s work, either in performance or in print (the MIT Global Shakespeares project has some good examples of productions from around the world, for instance, or the adaptation of Shakespeare’s works in graphic novels like Kill Shakespeare.) Or it can be something else that I haven’t even considered! Find something that is interesting to you that is from (very roughly) the past five years or so. Be creative and adventurous in your selection.
In class you will give a presentation of about 10 minutes on what you have found. Take about half of your time to show relevant examples from your cultural archive to the seminar, firstly. Then offer some thoughts on what you think your cultural artifact reflects about our interest today in Shakespeare. Do you think it presents relevant interpretation of the works? Is it an “adaptation” in the way we have been using that term in recent weeks, or something else entirely different? To what extent does the new work reflect back on Shakespeare’s time, and to what degree does it update the work to reflect our present concerns. Ultimately, do you find this to be a useful or important cultural appropriation?