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The Chronicle of Higher Education
Tuesday, January 22, 2002



A Professor's Web Site 'Triangulates' Shakespeare Through Students' Performances


Stephen Marx created his Web site, Triangulating Shakespeare, to house video recordings of student performances of Shakespeare that he couldn't bear to throw away. But Mr. Marx, a professor of English at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, says his page is more than a collection of what Shakespeare would call "unconsidered trifles." It's an instructional tool, he says, and "a personal, emotional thing."

Mr. Marx's site draws on his experience and archives from 12 years of teaching introductory, advanced, and graduate courses on the Bard. Its heart is a collection of RealVideo excerpts from plays that his students have staged. "What's most gratifying [about teaching] is the best work that students do. You kind of hate to throw that out," Mr. Marx says. 

Digital technology offered him an opportunity to make use of his footage. "The sense of 'Who wants to save all this stuff?' is mitigated by the fact that you can store it pretty easily, and configure it in ways that become more valuable," he says. 

Triangulating Shakespeare reconfigures the videos -- and the student papers, notes, and syllabuses that accompany them -- by dividing them into three sets of three categories. Visitors can peruse the material based on the level at which it is taught, the type of activity it calls for (reading, viewing, or performing), or the genre of play on which it focuses (comedy, tragedy, or history).

Throughout the site, and his pedagogy, Mr. Marx emphasizes performance as a means of understanding Shakespeare. "So much of the thematic and character development [of Shakespeare's plays] open up for people who have the experience of being onstage," he says. "More than anything else, Shakespeare's about show business."

In the papers Mr. Marx has posted on the Web site, students often discuss their performances, describing stage fright, the boundaries between scholarship and performance, and a host of other concerns. "When students can reflect on their own experiences," Mr. Marx says, "they give you some wonderful angles of perception."

While Mr. Marx uses the Web site sparingly in his own courses, he says it's a useful tool when he covers A Winter's Tale and Measure for Measure -- two plays for which no widely recognized film versions exist. Other professors, he says, have incorporated Triangulating Shakespeare into their courses and have lauded the project.

Another fan of the page is Terry A. Gray, academic-technology supervisor at Palomar College. On his Web page, Shakespeare in Education, he includes a link to Mr. Marx's "outstanding" site. He calls Mr. Marx's online work with Shakespeare "a fine model for Web-coursework integration."

Mr. Marx, who is developing a Web site about his university's land holdings, says he has no problems motivating himself to work on his online projects. "I'm getting old and totally frenetic," he says. "Technology makes me want to stay awake 24 hours a day."

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Copyright © 2002 by The Chronicle of Higher Education