Sydney 2010: ‘Drawing Out Shakespeare’

Held at Sydney University in the historic Woolley Building, home of the English Department, the 2010 ANZSA conference attracted 100 participants to its two main panel-packed days. There was a final shorter day at Barker College (with about 40 participants), with a focus mostly on issues of teaching Shakespeare in secondary schools. Barker is the ‘industry partner’ with Sydney University for the ARC Linkage Project Shakespeare Reloaded, of which this conference was a major outcome.

The conference, on the theme ‘Drawing Out Shakespeare: Shakespeare and Education, Then and Now’, offered panels in three parallel streams (though there was naturally much seepage between them): Early Modern pedagogy, Shakespeare in historic educational contexts, and approaching Shakespeare through popular culture. The three international plenary speakers mapped interestingly onto these sub-themes, while presenting rich and thought-provoking accounts of their own research and teaching. Prof Lynn Enterline (Vanderbilt) spoke on ‘Rhetoric, Violence, and Emotion in Shakespeare’s Schoolroom’ from her just-completed book manuscript, analysing the influence of classical texts used in rhetorical training on a humanist sense of the self. Prof Evelyn Tribble (Otago), spoke on ‘Training Boys to be Boys: Enskillment and Apprenticeship on the Early Modern Stage’, utilising her work on the distributed cognitive properties of workplace settings. More on this fascinating topic can be found in her forthcoming book with Palgrave Macmillan. Prof Gordon McMullan (King’s College London) spoke on the pros and cons of ten years of postgraduate-level collaboration with the London Globe, raising questions as to how such a program might have transferable elements, for example in a post-colonial culture.

The conference also featured several practical workshops on exploring Shakespearean texts through performance, and demonstrations of online tools and websites for teaching.

As conference convenor, unfortunately I was unable to hear any but a few of the presentations, but I overheard plenty of comments during coffee-breaks about the many excellent papers. This is an encouragement for the Sydney conference committee to proceed apace with its plans for a book arising from the conference. We will be aiming in the first instance for a contract with Ashgate, and will be shaping the volume around the theme of Shakespeare and learning from Early Modernity to Postmodernity. There’ll be an email encouraging submission of revised papers going out soon to all participants with more details about style and content. Submission date is September 30, 2010.

—Penny Gay, ANZSA President