The final Friday of the program featured a scholar I had been looking forward to all week: Dr. Vanessa Corredera from Andrews University in Michigan. She did not disappoint. Her overarching topics were Desdemona and American Moor, but not surprisingly her presentation was not limited to a focused discussion of both texts. As high school teachers, many of us feel we have to justify the use of non-canonical texts and avoid the criticism that Shakespeare adaptations are some sort of “lite” version of the plays. Dr. Corredera met this challenge head on by reminding us that what is considered authentic Shakespeare has changed significantly over time and that, especially based on Shakespeare’s liberal use of sources, searching for an objective original is not only counterproductive but – as she stressed – an attempt at establishing and maintaining authority.
Dr. Corredera introduced some terms that we could all use in our classes. She described the various texts we might look at in conversation with Shakespeare as often falling into one or more of the following categories: adaptations, appropriations, citations, and revisions. She suggested that the term reanimation works best for her and I see that it could be quite useful in the high school classroom as well – it feels value-neutral and positive and, I have to admit, might be a hard one for people to argue against!
Dr. Corredera led our cohort in high-level discussions on both Desdemona and American Moor which were peppered with anecdotes about her experience teaching both plays. But beyond the excellent content, what I found most enlightening about Dr. Corredera’s morning with us was how she modeled excellent teaching. Her knowledge was certainly evident, but it worked hand in hand with her compassion and empathy. She responded to each of our comments with a kind, thoughtful acknowledgement that she heard what each student said and often deftly asked a follow-up question or steered our collective thoughts into further inquiry. I am sure that all of us left that day as better teachers and wishing we could attend one of Dr. Corredera’s classes.