Also, teaching be hard work.
This is news to no one, of course. Those teaching in the tertiary sector in the antipodes are just three weeks into the new year. I was fortunate enough this time around to get a sessional contract convening a course that is precisely in my field. Such a luxury in so many ways: upper-level, small numbers, the freedom to adapt an existing course to lean towards my own research interests (I know, now I’m just showing off). I like nothing more than to get students opening their mouths and on their feet, but early in the term I think there will always be a weighting towards the lecturer doing a higher proportion of the talking. This course is delivered in a single, three-hour block, and of course you break that up with small group exercises, but there is a certain amount of getting a wad of basic information out there you have to do so you can all move forward from the same point. In short, my voice is wrecked.
Nevertheless, I armed myself with a pack of butterscotch throat soothers and dropped in on some colleagues to make a video lecture introducing first years to Much Ado About Nothing. There are so many exciting avenues that are just developing now for conversing about interesting topics. This was a first experiment for all of us involved in making a resource that can be kept available for when a teacher, or simply someone who wants to know a bit more, wants the injection of a fresh voice.
In this case we broke what might have been a very standard talk into four bite-sized chunks so they could be dropped into live lectures. This gave us the opportunity to keep the substance of the piece both flowing and concise, as I don’t have difficulty talking off the cuff for that length of time. I made a couple of small quotation errors by doing it without looking at the book, most notably saying ‘revered’ when I meant ‘reverend’, but overall I think they provide what I was aiming for, which is the kind of semi-formal enrichment of the material for people interested in the topic that we might commonly find in programme notes. The first three are pretty dull to watch, just me talking to camera about things most people who know the play already know, but I think the fourth is rather fun, as it was my chance to road test a key staging point. I’m fascinated by the moment of Benedick’s physical transfer of allegiance from a group of men to a group of women. When there are people who a working so hard, as many are at present, to get the conversation surrounding men’s violence against women to shift away from policing women’s behaviour and towards getting men to support women’s voices, this moment in theatre is startlingly apt.
Special thanks to the University of Notre Dame Sydney, the students from their Filmmaking Society, JAFA, and the random students who were just trying to have lunch in the courtyard and agreed to be bodies for the shoot.