Friday, April 04, 2008

Models or laziness?

There is a a post over on Shakespeare Geek which brings up the tricky issue of giving essays and having to write about Shakespeare and his work.

Whilst I am tempted to rant about the low level of the questions considering the age and location of the original setting of the task, I shall restrain myself. (But the gentle strains of 'Rule Britania and God Save the Queen throb away under this post.)

We're in the territory of 'originality' and 'personal response'; of having your own ideas and not being constricted by others; of predetermined requirements and (dare I say it?) THE CANON.

What strikes me as most pertinent is the education Shakespeare would have suffered - and which seems to have resulted in his ability to put pen to paper to scribe some of the greatest things ever written.

The models he would have followed were enforced across his bare backside with a bunch of birch rods - think of the reluctance of the schoolboy going to school 'like snail'.

He would have had to tightly follow the models of classical Latin writers and to learn to adapt and rephrase the ideas of others rather than be 'creative' (Lunatics, Lovers and Poets).

There was a movement in the 1960s in England to dump all that uncreative nonsense and let pupils 'express themselves': It produced a lot of very bad poetry (not recycled) and blinded an awful lot of people to the need for going beyond a draft.

It also produced me.

I don't teach that way - although I started off following the model of my teachers (all teachers should be forgiven their first 10 years - they are simply trying to break away from the tyranny of their own education).

Nowadays it's all 'models' and genre: If you want to do this, you need to do this, this and this - be creative within the bounds.

Much like Shakespeare was taught (although in those days there was a lot more 'acting out' done in the class - and I suspect fun, as long as you did what you were told)

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