not without mustard :: teaching philosophy

Teaching Philosophy

According to Plato, "it is impossible to learn the serious without the laughable" (Laws, 816c-d), and one of the central tenets of my teaching philosophy is to strike a balance between the two. Since attention spans are limited, I will use anything and everything I can to maximise student engagement and involvement. Chief amongst these tools are the use of a variety of audio-visual materials, the implementation of blended/hybrid teaching techniques, and the use of humour and popular culture, as appropriate.

In early modern England, the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries circulated in print and in performance. In our own time, this has grown to include a range of media: radio, film and television, visual art, music and opera, graphic novels, advertising and pop culture, the Internet and other electronic media. I believe that teaching Shakespeare should capitalize on this richness and diversity, and I draw freely from all of these various realizations, adaptations, and appropriations in lectures and tutorials.

Teaching Goals

To inspire a greater appreciation and understanding of early English drama and literature by introducing students to a diverse range of critical and ideological approaches

The Lecture While my own research tends to adopt a broadly historicist approach by emphasizing the historicity of textual and visual artefacts and their cultural moments of production and reception, in my teaching I introduce students to other critical literary theories and methodologies—such as feminist and gender studies, psychoanalytic criticism, film studies, performance studies, postcolonial criticism, textual studies and bibliography, as well as principles and methods associated with digital humanities—and encourage students to explore their application.

To encourage independent research and to ensure that students have the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to accomplish this

To be effective, this requires imparting both the skills and methods of traditional humanities research alongside more innovative computational and quantitative methods associated with digital humanities. While a firm grounding in traditional research skills is crucial, to embrace and become familiar with emerging technologies and their scholarly application is increasingly essential for academic success. Digital humanities skills not only emphasize the importance of engaging with electronic resources critically and using digital sources responsibly, but they also impart an awareness of the ways in which humanities research questions can be tractable to computation. To build these skills, I promote the critical use of electronic databases, resources, and discuss the application of computational methods for literary analysis.

Since early printed books and materials are markedly different from their modern counterparts, I believe that students should also be introduced to the history of the book and receive basic bibliographical training to attune them to the nuances of reading early English manuscript and print materials, and to appreciate the layers of editorial mediation present in modern critical editions of these materials. To build these skills, I promote the critical use of primary materials in lectures and tutorials.

To offer students a variety in course content and assessment

The richness of early English culture allows for an infinite number of different lecture topics, questions for tutorial discussion, and areas for student investigation. As outlined above, I believe that offering students a selection of different critical views and perspectives is important, and this variety should extend to the materials presented and discussed. In teaching Shakespeare, for example, I believe incorporating non-Shakespearean content is essential in order to impart to students not only a sense of Shakespeare's ingenuity, but also an appreciation of his wider cultural milieu and his indebtedness to earlier literary and dramatic traditions, rivals, and peers.

To complement this variety in course content, I ensure that assessments are flexible enough to reward student initiative, encourage creativity, and to facilitate building independent and collaborative research skills.

Please email me for a more comprehensive teaching portfolio.


© 2011– Brett D. Hirsch