A Professor's Web Site 'Triangulates' Shakespeare Through Students' Performances
By BROCK READ
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
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
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
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."