'Most rare!': Teaching Surplus Shakespeare

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association

As early as middle school, students learn to accept if not revere certain plays among Shakespeare’s works as canonical. Some are so ubiquitously recognizable that people know the plot through pop culture or other means without ever having read the work itself. However, there are a number of plays that are rarely recognized at all, let alone produced, read, or studied. Many history plays, for example, bridge a gap between iconic, climactic battles at Agincourt or Bosworth Field. Coriolanus is recognizably Roman, but Julius Caesar is the perennial favorite. Romeo and Juliet is a popular cultural touchstone, but who knows even the outlines of Cymbeline or Pericles? This category of play might be considered “surplus,” those works that round out a canonical list but that fail to resonate with the public, with students, and, at times, even with scholars.

This seminar asks us to rethink the utility of Shakespeare’s surplus. What can we learn from studying Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays? What can students gain from reading 2 Henry VI? How (and why) should we attend to Timon of Athens in the classroom? How should we approach the idea of collaborative authorship or a maturation chronology? This seminar seeks papers that engage pedagogical questions based around works by Shakespeare that rarely appear on Shakespeare course syllabi. Submissions might include rationale for inclusion or prioritization of these works, effective strategies for boosting student engagement with unfamiliar stories, contextualizing plays with the historical and/or contemporary moment, etc.

Accepted participants will be invited to circulate papers of 3000-4000 words as well as a response of ~500 words to an assigned seminar partner ahead of our in-person session at NeMLA during the weekend of March 7th 2024. To submit an abstract, please log in at the NeMLA website and visit this page: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/User/SubmitAbstract/20776. Abstract submissions are due by 30 September 2023. 

Any questions can be directed to James Rizzi at jamesrizzitufts@gmail.com