Dining With Authors: Part Two

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Renaissance_theatre

The drawing of the Swan Theatre (1596)

Hamlet, Doctor Faustus, The Tempest, and Edward the Second are just a few of the plays produced by the two greatest playwrights of the Renaissance: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Born in the same year–1564, they were the two premier writers of their age and arguably among the  most important of any era. These are writers who have informed both my studies and entranced my imagination.  At Muhlenberg College, I teach Renaissance drama courses and Shakespeare .

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https://pixabay.com

Christopher Marlowe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Marlowe

I would love to have the opportunity through a magic time machine to sit down and have a conversation with these two giants of the theater. I would invite both writers to spend an afternoon or evening at a pub–English of course–and over beer and food discuss many topics with them. I am sure that sometimes I would simply listen to them.

I would love to hear what they said about their work and how they felt about each other. I would love to learn from them the specifics of the way their plays were staged. I would ask Marlowe about his mysterious work for the Queen of England.  Was he a spy?  I do not know if he would answer, but I would still have to ask.

I would ask Shakespeare about the canon of his plays.  Were there plays he wrote that are currently lost?  If so, what are they? And I have often wondered if he ever considered writing a tragedy about King Arthur.

I also wonder how the two great writers would behave together. Would this be a polite conversation, a deep discussion of theatrical issues, or a wild and fiery debate or argument among bitter rivals?

I wish I could speak with them.

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https://pixabay.com

What Book Would You Choose To Be?

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(http://mritsmith.wikispaces.com)

One of the central themes in the Young Adult novel I am writing is the issue of who controls knowledge and of book banning. I was thinking about it this morning, and I remembered an assignment I used in several classes that reflects this question. I have taught Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the most recently in a class on Banned Books.

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(https://pixabay.com)

Montag, the fireman book burner turned book lover, finds a group of people living on the outskirts of society, who are dedicated to the preservation of books by becoming living copies of the books. They choose a book, commit it completely to memory, and then find another young person to pass this knowledge to until the time comes when the books can be once again printed and read.To have my students understand this idea personally, I assign them to choose a book they love and to memorize a small passage of 1-2 paragraphs, which they then give to the class at the end of the semester. I, too, perform this exercise.

So, as I was thinking about this today, I was wondering what books other people would choose to be, if we lived in such a terrible world. What book would you choose to become? If you can’t decide on one, then suggest a list of 1-5 books.

My choices, in no particular order, are: Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Don Quixote, by Cervantes, A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.  Yes, I know these are huge texts!  Please offer your choices.

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(https://pixabay.com)

Teaching Shakespeare!

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I usually write about writing in some way, but in this post, I want to talk about teaching Shakespeare. The spring semester is over, but as an adjunct professor, I teach the entire year. I am not complaining about this situation, because I love my work, just explaining the schedule.

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I have loved Shakespeare most of my life—the reading of the plays, the viewing of productions, acting in them, directing one production, writing about the plays, and teaching the plays. I studied Shakespeare as one of my areas of specialization in graduate school, so I am always excited when I have the opportunity to teach Will.  Shakespeare has been a lifelong companion.

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This college class is being held at The Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College.  Because this is an adult evening college, which also administers the summer session, all of the students in my class are adults.  They are working towards their undergraduate degrees as are the traditional age students, but they bring the added responsibility and attentiveness to the class that comes with maturity and experience.  I love teaching both traditional and non-traditional students, but both bring different needs and different expectations.

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The class has just begun, because the first summer session has already started. I have held the first class, which was an introductory lecture on Shakespeare’s theater and England at the time. Tomorrow we will begin examining the plays. We will cover some of the comedies in the first half of the session and some of the tragedies in the second half. By the end of 12 classes during the span of 6 weeks, we will read and explored 9-10 plays. The first play of the course will be one of my favorites: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   I feel like I have a special relationship with this comedy, because I have studied it, taught it, written about it, acted in it, and directed it.  It was also the play of the first live Shakespeare production that I saw when I was in 10th grade.

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I am looking forward to teaching Shakespeare!

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Roosevelt Theodore Franklin’s Humanism

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(https://pixabay.com)

( by Raphael ~1510)

“Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

John Donne from Meditation 17 (1624)

Roosevelt Theodore Franklin, the protagonist of my supernatural thriller and horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, is a retired history professor whose main area of study was the occult during the Renaissance. He paid special attention to Marsilio Ficino, Giovani Pico della Mirandola, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno. The work he holds in the most regard is Pico’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man,” a piece often considered to be the Humanist Manifesto, and one in which Pico asserts that human beings have the capacity to rise like eagles or sink into the muck like insects.

For Roosevelt, the Renaissance represents a time with an explosion of new ideas, confronting the status quo and forcing the exploration of new forms of knowledge. In many ways, he believes it was similar to the 20th century.

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(https://es.wikipedia.org)

Perhaps the most crucial and important element from this period for Roosevelt was the creation of Humanism, a philosophy that he considered to be central to his way of life and consideration of the world. He rejects post-modernism and its denial of truth; he sees the existence of truth, but that it is a search one must continue throughout the entirety of life. He denies the idea that humans are disconnected; he perceives the connection among people of which Donne spoke in the Meditation 17. If he is confronted by other academics about his ideas which are often considered out of fashion or outdated, he replies that he is not a slave to fads and that he is proud to be a humanist.

Roosevelt holds that despite our many and varied differences, we are all ultimately connected as human beings.

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(https://pixabay.com)