Friday, January 31, 2014


I have one of those really enthusiastic students this semester.  On the one hand (and this is most important), student enthusiasm is wonderful.  It makes me happy.

On the other hand, sometimes, this student needs to share something, and it's way out from left field.

I think one of the signs of a great teacher is that s/he can take student comments from left field and 1)  make them useful to the class, 2) make the student feel that s/he contributed well, and 3) help educate the student to make more useful comments.

I'm just not there yet.  I try, but I don't seem to pull that off well.

Speaking of enthusiasm, I'm losing count of the number of people who've told me about the Star Wars/Shakespeare mashup, and told me that I really need to read it because I'll love it.

I haven't looked, but I admit I have some doubts.  First, the power of Shakespeare isn't just that he wrote early modern English.  That doesn't make verse automatically amazing and wonderful.  Trust me on this; there's a whole lot of not so amazing early modern verse.

And fake early modern English (which is what I imagine this is) probably isn't automatically amazing verse, either.  I'm totally willing to bet someone with good linguistic skills could write early modern English that I'd be completely fooled by, but that doesn't make it great verse.

So, I have my doubts that the fake Shakespearean verse is worth reading as verse, if that makes sense.  I mean, it's worth reading a retelling of an old story if it's written really well.  It's worth reading, say, Hero and Leander because Marlowe's a great poet and does something amazing with the old story.  But reading someone's new version, unless written with great skill, probably isn't worth it to me.

There are people who are writing powerful and amazing verse right now, and their work is thought-provoking, stunning, amazing, and sometimes beautiful, all things that great verse can be.  They are working hard on their verse, and crafting it, drafting and redrafting it. I'm willing to bet that if the author of the mashup were capable of writing verse with that power, that beauty, that depth (etc), s/he would already be a well-respected poet.  I'd rather spend the time I give to new writing to those poets' works.

(It's worth noting that I love and adore Chaucer Doth Tweet, but part of the fun is that the bits are very short, and don't take the attention that retelling a movie would.)


  1. What I've enjoyed about the Star Wars / Shakespeare mashup is precisely the short bits--I can't read more than a page or so at a time, but there are tiny awesome bits that are hilarious.

  2. People keep telling me about the Star Wars thing too, and I have already had it since the day it came out. (My mother-in-law got it for me.) I read a little bit of it, and there are funny moments. But yeah. I don't have time to read things that I DO want to read, let alone more time to read something that I think is a money grab on two fronts. No thanks.

  3. Those enthusiastic students! I had one who reduced me to saying, "that's a very interesting line of thought, maybe we can come back to it later, but we need to finish with X first." When they are really off base (and the last such student I had was, I think, probably on the autism spectrum - he really did not pick up on subtle hints), I think you just acknowledge the comment, maybe map where this might fit, and move on. The other students were grateful when I did that, because mr. Enthusiasm drove them nuts.