Play-reading in the time of COVID

In her ENG224 Shakespeare and Critical Hope course, Dr. Jessica Riddell wanted to explore how the convergence of Shakespeare in the classroom situates us all as learners and can help us build hope.

Critical hope has an increasing sense of urgency in a new global reality where truth and justice are embattled, where people retrench into ideological positions, where unexamined opinions overpower nuanced arguments, and where divisiveness dictates the rules of engagement. Studying Shakespeare together at this moment in time breaks us open so that we can explore the strange and familiar, the alienating and the kindred, the political tensions and social concerns as diverse lenses we put on and take off—as a way forward into the future, into the realm of the possible. 

One example how we’ve built community together is the virtual play readings this term. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the university spend every other Tuesday night together and, over three hours, bring a Shakespeare play to life. In a world that is disorienting and exhausting, making art together is a critically hopeful and generative act that reminds us of what makes us human and, in the process, transforms us together.

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