Douglas College course combines classic plays with modern movies
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
William Shakespeare’s works are often found in post-secondary English programs, but they aren’t always the most relatable stories to analyze. To help improve students’ understanding of Shakespeare’s texts, Douglas College English instructor Jasmine Nicholsfigueiredo has combined the study of Shakespeare’s work with modern film adaptations set in present times for a third-year English course, Shakespeare and Film.
“The inspiration for the course came from a conversation I had with some of my students about how some of the most exciting and accessible adaptations of Shakespeare’s work have happened in film,” Nicholsfigueiredo said. “The conversation got me thinking about how many students find the whole Shakespearean phenomenon incomprehensible and that maybe a way to awaken interest was to frame a course with some of these films.”
Shakespeare and Film will include a variety of Shakespeare’s texts, and Shakespeare-inspired films, TV shows, and other media. Among these are three films and the plays that inspired them: 10 Things I Hate About You based on The Taming of the Shrew, She’s the Man based on Twelfth Night, and O based on Othello.
“Getting students to take a Shakespeare course—even one with the word ‘film’ in the title—is difficult because many of them struggled with Shakespeare in high school and feel intimidated,” Nicholsfigueiredo said. “His language is what causes the problem, therefore starting with some accessible films is a great way to get them comfortable.”
Shakespeare and Film has attracted the interest and enrolment of students outside of the English program in a variety of fields of study, including science, teaching, youth care work, and theatre. Some of the students are even coming from Simon Fraser University just to take the course.
“The course is an advantage to have, not just because it is a required time period for any English degree but because it is important for anyone interested in teaching, pop culture, art or theatre history, linguistics, or marketing,” Nicholsfigueiredo said. “Shakespeare’s influence permeates our culture and everyone should have some sense of his influence.”
Nicholsfigueiredo has also taught Shakespeare’s plays in the second-year course Studies in British Literature: Early English Through the Renaissance. In that course, she had students perform plays so they could better engage with the content instead of only reading the required texts. In Shakespeare and Film, she also plans to feature hands-on activities to get students involved with the works outside of reading or viewing them.
“This is not a course that is about sitting down and reading. It is about bringing a work to life by speaking it, acting it, drawing it, viewing it, and basically doing whatever we can to make it relevant to our world,” she said. “My teaching style is always about bringing things to life and having students live it and breathe it, if possible.”
Shakespeare and Film will take place on Wednesday nights from 6:30–9:30 p.m. at the New Westminster campus during the winter semester.