What a difference reading a few blog posts and in-class discussion makes! After my disheartened post of Sunday I went back and read through a number of the course blog posts and comments that students posted last week regarding their reactions to watching Titus and its relation to their experiences reading Titus Andronicus. Their observations were thoughtful, insightful, and while most were still skittish about the representations of violence many were able to transcend that and consider why Taymor had pushed the violence to an almost cartoon-like level.
Feeling rejuvenated by the response, I decided to undertake discussions with each of the three sections. I knew I could count on a few students to carry the conversation, but wanted to challenge those who are usually silent to engage, as well. So ... I resorted to bribery. I brought cookies (way too many cookies, as it turned out) and ended up using the cookies as a kind of talking stick /*insert bad summer camp joke here*/. As the cookies made their way around the room, each student had to raise a question or make an observation about the play, the film, or the group project they're working on. I promised to keep my mouth shut (which I was *almost* able to pull off) and let them talk to each other.
A small victory: one student who has never, ever spoken in class piped up and made a really interesting observation that triggered prolonged discussion among his classmates (huzzah!) Moderate amusement: a surprising number of students said Anthony Hopkins made sense as Titus ... because he had played Hannibal Lecter (typecasting wins!) General relief: some students actually demonstrated understanding of the finer points of the play as read and clarified things for their confused classmates. (one small step ...)
Phew! Lesson learned: count to 20 and then count to 20 again before bewailing the lack of understanding for Shakespeare.