Shakespeare scholar celebrates Romeo and Juliet

By Alex Solari, Staff Writer

On Monday, April 3,“Shakespeare’s Birthday Lecture” was held as part of the National Poetry Month celebration. Coppélia Kahn, an internationally recognized Shakespeare scholar and Professor Emerita of English and Gender Studies at Brown University, delivered the lecture, titled, “The Feud as Fate in Romeo and Juliet”. This lecture was based in part on the movie, Romeo + Juliet from 1996. Kahn also visited a Shakespeare class and had lunch with students during her stay.

Nicole Belair, a junior English student who attended the lecture and is in the Shakespeare class was asked about the experience. Belair told The Torch, “I really enjoyed the lecture, and I found it very engaging. In school, we don’t normally get to discuss the movie versions of what we’ve read, but Dr. Kahn gave us the chance to do so.”

Gabriela Calderon, another junior English student in the Shakespeare class who attended the event also expressed her enjoyment of the lecture, and said, “Romeo and Juliet is already my favorite play and Coppélia Kahn talked about themes I hadn’t gotten the chance to consider before when I studied the play.”

Calderon went further in depth, and said, “Kahn had interesting points about Romeo’s loyalty to his family, the Montagues, and how he tries to remain loyal to the Capulets when his secret marriage bonds him to his nemesis Tybalt. It made me look at the scenes of the movie we watched differently.”

Jay Zysk, Assistant Professor of English, who teaches the Shakespeare class coordinated this event. He told The Torch that although his Shakespeare class was not covering Romeo and Juliet this semester, he felt Kahn’s lecture was helpful to his students. He said, “The first play we covered this semester was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which considers the dynamics of patriarchy in the early modern period, as does Romeo and Juliet.” Zysk went on to say, “In addition to re-tracing historical and literary themes familiar from plays studied in the course, hearing a well-articulated argument from a scholar such as Kahn can help students develop strong arguments on their own.”

Many of the people who were present at the lecture were not from Zysk’s Shakespeare class. In fact, around 75 people in total attended the event, according to Zysk. When asked how the lecture could be helpful to those who know little about Shakespeare, Zysk said, “The lecture was intended to offer a relevant and timely topic for a wide audience. What is more, it is important for students to hear a range of voices. When it comes to Shakespeare, they hear from me all semester, so hearing a different perspective can offer new insights.”

Zysk also said that he believed this lecture helped students see scholars as real people, and scholarship as communal rather than academic study only meant for the most educated of people. In fact, Zysk told The Torch that his class read an essay by Kahn a week prior, so having the chance to engage with the mind behind the essay was an enlightening experience for his students.

For more information on events like this on campus, visit http://calendar.umassd.edu/cal/main/showEventList.rdo

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