Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Shakespeare and performance

I can't explain why I'm addicted to studying. It's certainly not because I have an excess of free time. Nor is it because I have any grand plans for my career. In fact, asking the question 'so what are you actually going to do with your qualification?' is guaranteed to make my blood boil. It must just be for the thrill of it, for those wonderful 'lightbulb' moments when the pieces suddenly fall into place. Of course, you don't need to commit to formal study in order to learn, but there's something about those relentless assignment deadlines and formal exams that motivate in a way that nothing else can.

If I thought that I'd satisfied my desire to study when I graduated last year, I was wrong. I've toyed with Italian and photography, but without a trip to Italy to put both into practice, my enthusisasm soon waned. So here I am again, this time in the thick of an Open University course entitled 'Shakespeare and performance'. I'd looked at this course a few years ago, but did I really want to spend a whole year studying nothing but Shakespeare?

So far so good. There's something quite satisfying about immersing yourself in a particular writer. Then there's the historical context, the performance history and the joy of being able to watch DVDs and swan off to the theatre and call it 'study'. When I was much younger and studying Shakespeare, watching film adaptations always seemed to be cheating - a soft option for those who hadn't actually read the play in the first place. This course positively embraces the performance aspects. I'm sure my sixth form teacher told me there was no 'definitive' way to read a play, but it was only when I saw David Suchet play Iago in the RSC's production of Othello that I truly understood what she meant.

If there is a disadvantage to studying, it's that leisure reading gets pushed to the edges of my days. Consequently, Les Miserables hasn't been opened for a month and even Hangover Square is proceeding at a snail's pace. Still, with an essay to write on Polanski's portrayal of evil in Macbeth, I have other things to keep me happy.


3000 pages of bedtime reading!

6 comments:

  1. Good for you! I was study free for 6 months after my first degree. Then I fell off the wagon. That was about 18 yrs ago - I was a late developer! I wonder if therapy would help? Mature Students Anonymous?

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    1. I'm glad you understand Denise. Therapy might be an option, but then again, there are worse addictions!

      I hope your photography course is going well.

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  2. Oh I do know all about that studying bug. I keep looking at the OU courses, but as my health means I have to take each day as it comes the thought of not being well enough to hit an assignment or exam date always puts me off. I'm hoping that the MOOC platforms, and particularly the UK one, FutureLearn, with which the OU is heavily involved, will start to include more humanities courses and make studying possible that way. If you ever want to discuss Shakespeare then do drop me an e-mail. I'm off to Stratford this afternoon for this week's seminar which I think is about Campus productions.

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    1. Thank you for your kind offer Alex - I might well take you up on that before the end of the course.

      I highly recommend OU study, but it's true that the schedule can be demanding. Given the cuts in HE funding, MOOCS might well be the way forward, particularly for humanities courses. It'll be interesting to see what FutureLearn offers.

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  3. I miss the deadlines and the enforcedness that studying takes on, so can totally understand what you're saying. Though your bedtime reading looks rather threatening to me!

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    1. One page at a time, it's the only way. The Norton Shakespeare's not so bad, but I am glad I don't have to carry it very far.

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