SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — For Wittenberg University students in Associate Professor of English Cynthia Richards’ literature course, “The Theatre of the 18th Century: Performing Gender and Race,” the world stage became more personal recently thanks to a collaborative venture with the University of Exeter’s Performing Arts School in England.
Co-designed by Richards and Jane Milling, lecturer in performance studies at Exeter, the course aimed to help students examine their own identities through American and British lenses as they studied and interpreted scenes from two plays, The Widow Ranter by Aphra Behn and Oroonoko by Thomas Southerne. As part of the class, students on both shores also performed selected scenes, digitally recorded their performances and then exchanged the respective DVDs across the Atlantic for review and discussion.
In addition, students communicated regularly with their assigned Exeter counterparts via e-mail and the Web throughout the course’s duration, and an hour-long Internet videoconference, coordinated by Lionel Worman of Wittenberg’s Computing Center using Microsoft NetMeeting software, concluded the joint class on May 4.
“It was surprising how different our perceptions of the scenes were,” Richards explained. For example, the students in Richards’ class portrayed certain scenes using a more naturalistic and at times “masculine” approach, while Milling’s students interpreted the same scene using an almost comical approach.
“This collaboration showed just how deeply embedded people’s identities are,” Richards said.
“I thought we were more alike as we conversed via e-mail, but the different interpretations of the scenes showed the differences in our cultures and how much culture affects us internally,” noted junior Clay Crates of Pueblo, Colo., one of 15 students enrolled in the class.
“The most fascinating thing I learned about myself, my classmates and my pen-pal at Exeter is that everyone has an inherent amount of patriotism that you didn’t know existed,” added junior Melissa Barrett of Kent, Ohio. “To talk with someone not of your nationality was also eye-opening and enlightening.”
Winners of the American Society of 18th Century Studies Innovative Course Design Award, the highest teaching honor the society bestows, Richards and Milling presented at the ASECS’s international conference last August and submitted a 12-page account of the course to be published on the society’s Web page.
Send a Message
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award