Shakespearean scholarship:

reading, writing and webbing

Reports of William Shakespeare's demise on university campuses are rather premature, especially at Emory. Last month crowds enjoyed Theater Emory's version of Shakespeare's The Tempest-as well as a variation on his Hamlet-in a replica of a Renaissance­era theater, undergraduate English classes and seminars on Shakespeare are constantly packed, and an Emory web site, "Shakespeare Illustrated," recently recorded 305 hits in just one day.

This enduring love for Shakespeare doesn't surprise associate professor of English Harry Rusche, who created the web site about three years ago to explore 19th-century paintings, criticism and productions of Shakespeare's plays­­­and their influences on one another. "Students know what's important and relevant," said Rusche. "Shakespeare is so much a part of our social context, from generation to generation, and throughout the world. Most people can immediately connect a quote from Shakespeare with a character from one of his plays."

Rusche's next project is to convert his postcard collection of scenes from Shakespeare to the web to use as a teaching tool rather than making conventional slides. Rusche plans to eventually expand the site to include all 3,000 postcards currently in his ever-expanding collection. Rusche, who teaches an undergraduate Shakespeare course and Renaissance literature, also has a web site on World War I culture and literature.

"Hypertext allows me to link pictures and text in ways that would be awkward, if not impossible, on the printed page, and I can work with either artists or plays with cross-references that would be repetitive and difficult in a linear format," said Rusche. The hypertext also enables him to link his work to other scholars and their web sites.

The web site is very much part of Rusche's scholarly life, although the academic world has not yet determined how to evaluate research posted on the web. "I'm impressed with the scholarly contacts I've made through the site­­­I receive many notes each week from readers," said Rusche. "Some of my colleagues are skeptical of research mounted on the web, claiming it's not refereed, but my research is always under review by teachers, scholars and students all over the world."

In fact, a paper Rusche wrote, "Teaching on the World Wide Web," was "presented" at a virtual conference organized by Emory graduate students last spring on campus. The third annual National Graduate Student Romanticism Conference was the first virtual conference in literary studies, according to conference organizers. All keynote addresses, conference papers and responses, and resources were posted on a web site, and EmoryMoo was established to allow people to communicate in (almost) real time over great distances. The conference web site, "Prometheus Unplugged," still exists.

The expansion of such virtual conferences, along with the development of new electronic journals, the increasing budgetary restrictions on libraries, and the growth in computer sophistication and use by future college generations, will change the nature of research and teaching, says Rusche. "It already has."

To help faculty use emerging technologies in their teaching, the Center for Teaching and Curriculum recently received $186,000 from the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation to fund a faculty/graduate student program in computer-assisted instruction. For the next three years beginning this summer, a five-week program will help faculty members and graduate students develop technology-based projects that will be used in courses taught the following academic year. Rusche, who is overseeing the Culpeper/CTC Seminar in Technology and Teaching, says that announcements and application forms recently were distributed by the Center for Teaching and Curriculum. For more information, call Rusche at 727-6426, or send him a message at <enghr@>.

-Nancy Seideman

Web addresses

"Shakespeare Illustrated:"

"Prometheus Unplugged:"

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