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ENGL 421: Shakespeare

Exercises and resources for public-facing writing about Shakespeare.

How Do Public Shakespearians Use Sources?

Snowflakes and trigger warnings: Shakespearean violence has always upset people

Each table will be assigned one source used in this article.

1. As a group, use SIFT and what you can find out about the source's author/publication to rate the source's credibility/authority on a scale of 1-10. (Make sure you can speak to why you chose that rating.) 

2. As a group, decide: if your research question was "Is it really true that readers and theatregoers of the past were more emotionally resilient than today’s 'snowflake' generation?," how likely (1-10) would you be to use this source in your paper? (Again, you may be asked to speak to why.)

Once you've reached consensus, map your answers to both questions on the whiteboard.

Sources

Source 1. We are repeatedly told that today’s young people are oversensitive, claiming to need “trigger warnings” and to be traumatised by literary texts – including the works of Shakespeare

Source 2. We are repeatedly told that today’s young people are oversensitive, claiming to need “trigger warnings” and to be traumatised by literary texts … that previous generations took in their stride

Source 3. In his 1765 edition of the The Plays of William Shakespeare, the great 18th-century critic Samuel Johnson admitted that reading certain scenes in Shakespeare’s King Lear gave him a sense of extreme discomfort. He found the death of Lear’s daughter, Cordelia, in the tragedy’s last act, so upsetting that he avoided ever reading the scene again until he was forced to do so by his work as an editor.

Source 4. Queen Victoria, for example, criticised the plays for their sexual humour. She wrote to her eldest daughter in 1859 that she had never “had the courage” to see Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor on stage…

Source 5. The Bowdlers were criticised by some of their contemporaries for having gone too far in tampering with these classic works…

SIFT - Web Use for Fact Checkers

SIFT, by Mike Caulfield, is a set of "moves" for verifying a webpage's credibility. Though geared toward fact-checking for current events research, it is regardless a good set of methods for evaluating sources found on the open web/Google. 

For this exercise, Investigate the source and Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context may be the most effective methods to focus on.