Teaching Literature Through Technology: Play / Drama

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As the use of technology in classroom is increasing day by day, it becomes important to make some serious observations on its usage and impact on the learners. I wish to write a trilogy of blog posts on poetry and fiction, as well. This is the first one one Play / Drama.
I make extensive use of technology in my literature classes. The statement is not made in self-eulogy or from a sense of pride. I know, all teachers these days are using technology in their classrooms. So, it is new or unique. Mine is just a humble attempt to see how far it works in the literature classrooms. And if I get some success with it, I am happy to share it with other teachers. This presentation was made for/in the Refresher Course in English Literature, organised by Academic Staff College, Gujarat University.
These were the points discussed with the help of various videos and select scenes from the stage performance of the plays:

Literature is made up of words. Colours, visuals, musical notes etc have no space in the aesthetic delight which literature gives through words to the readers.
The use of visual mars the free play of imagination which words are capable of.
There should be no medium between the words and the reader - if the literature is to be relished.
But when it comes to plays, it becomes necessary to understand that play are not meant to be read as poems or fictions are.
Plays are to be performed and visuals of the performance is to be relished. Words on the page are not enough to give the beauty of play - the aesthetic delight lies in viewing the performance, rather than in reading it. Though, reading a play is also equally satisfying.
To prove this point an interesting example is given in the presentation: refer to the slide on which Tom Stoppard and performance of 'The Tempest' is discussed.
Well, some interesting scenes from 'Doctor Faustus' by Christopher Marlowe, 'Hamlet' by Shakespeare, 'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett, "The Birthday Party' by Harold Pinter were presented with important points.
It was proved that the nuances of plays lies in the acting, dialogue delivery, pauses, silences, stage spectacle and several other stage devices. Reading a play, never gives the satisfaction which viewing a performance gives.
However, in the classroom, while teaching the plays as texts, we cannot take students to the theatre to view the plays. Henceforth, we have bring in the video recordings of the play performances.
Hey, there is a rub! There is a problem. The problem is inherent in video recordings of the performance with happens through 'camera'.
This limitation is discussed in the slide on 'Camera as Technopoly'.
Your queries, observations, suggestion are welcome in the comments below this presentaton.

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Teaching Literature Through Technology: Play / Drama

  1. 1. Teaching Literature through Technology ‘Play / Drama’ Dilip Barad Refresher Course: English Literature ASC, Gujarat University, Ahmedabad 8th March 2014 dilipbarad@gmail.com
  2. 2. Breaking the ice . . . • What is play / Drama / theatre? • Why technology? – constructivism • What sort of technology? – YouTube; Blog etc • Audio-visual form of play. – Why?
  3. 3. Breaking the ice . . . • What is literature? – Mirror, Photograph, or . . . • Does literature please us while we ‘read’ the ‘words’ or ‘see’ performance of ‘words’? – Let us watch this vides – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neRyi3i3K20) • Literature is broadly divided in genres like poetry, play and prose compositions. What we have seen can be applied on all three genres of compositions?
  4. 4. Difference between ‘Drama’ and ‘Play’ • Drama = used in sense of ‘theatre’ (Greek theatron < theasthai "to watch") • Play = used in the sense of ‘a literary composition’ • Play = a literary piece consisting of dialogues between various characters, epilogue, monologue, prologue and an end. • Drama = the set up of the play which includes the theater, the hall, the accessories, the green room, costumes, music and the like. • Play text vs Performance text • Dramatist and Playwright
  5. 5. The difference – to the reader/audience • When reading we only take in one impression at a time. • In the theatre, however, we respond simultaneously to the words, the movement of the actors, their expressions, their voices, the silences, the sound effects, the lighting, the scenery, the costumes, the gestures, the groupings of characters, the rhythms, the space, the atmosphere, and so on. • All of these elements and more have been carefully selected, unified, and honed by the collaborative effort of actors, director, playwright, designers, and technicians.
  6. 6. • When reading a play we imagine as much as possible about a performance of that play -- to see the play in the "mind's eye." • The playwright's stage directions and the description of the stage setting help us to begin the process of imagining the performance, but they are severely limited.
  7. 7. Compare the experience of actually looking at a painting ‘The Scream’ (1893) by Edward Munk to that of merely reading a description of the same painting. • Saffron sky, dark grey river, boats frozen in the water, a face holds face in palms and screams, two unknown figures over the bridge observes. Munch has used mix technique: oils, tempera and pastel on cardboard. The painting recreates loneliness, suffering and despair.
  8. 8. This explains the difference: • Tom Stoppard told the following story at the University of Pennsylvania in 1996: Years and years ago, there was a production of The Tempest, out of doors, at an Oxford college on a lawn, which was the stage, and the lawn went back towards the lake in the grounds of the college, and the play began in natural light. But as it developed, and as it became time for Ariel to say his farewell to the world of The Tempest, the evening had started to close in and there was some artificial lighting coming on. And as Ariel uttered his last speech, he turned and he ran across the grass, and he got to the edge of the lake and he just kept running across the top of the water -- the producer having thoughtfully provided a kind of walkway an inch beneath the water. And you could see and you could hear the plish, plash as he ran away from you across the top of the lake, until the gloom enveloped him and he disappeared from your view. • And as he did so, from the further shore, a firework rocket was ignited, and it went whoosh into the air, and high up there it burst into lots of sparks, and all the sparks went out, and he had gone. • When you look up the stage directions, it says, "Exit Ariel."
  9. 9. Back to Worksheet • How do you teach play – the text in syllabus? • Which of the following are used in the classroom to teach a play? – Original TEXT – WORDS, WORDS, WORDS – Video CD/DVD – Camera – DVD player – TV set – Sat / DTH Set Top Box – Presentation programmes – Laptop and/or projector – YouTube – Blog – Website – Digital Repositories • Do you take help of audio-visual resource to teach literature (esp. play)? • If yes, what is your teaching methodology? • If No, why?
  10. 10. Some illustrations: Let us view select scenes from the stage performance: • Doctor Faustus – First and last monologue, Mephistopheles, Lucifer, Good & Bad Angle, Old Man • The Birthday Party – Interrogation Scene, Party Scene, paper tearing scene • Hamlet – The Mirror Scene – To Be or Not To Be • Waiting for Godot • Digital repository of Gujarati Plays • http://www.fungujarati.com/gujarati-natak/gujarati-natak-amaru-sarnamu-tame-2.html
  11. 11. Technology for teaching plays • PowerPoint presentations • Blog > worksheet > Examples • Websites with rich video resources • Student’s feedback
  12. 12. Let us discuss some benefits Digital Humanities • Why should teachers use audio/visual/web recourses to teach literature, in general, and play in particular? – Social-cultural-religious-historical distance – Social Constructivism > Moodle Philosophy – Digital Humanities: Matthew G. Kirschenbaum – Cyberspace Textuality: Marie – Laure Ryan • Ergodic Discourse: Espen Aarseth
  13. 13. Action Research and its outcome, so far – Visit this form to see the questions asked to students as a part of action research on using technology in literature classroom: • https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Kq3Sz7C99Y2LjwAg5i7 n-IlwWtC68sdHYqlBcaeyaWw/viewform (Press Ctrl + Click) – Click here to see students’ feedback • https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Kq3Sz7C99Y2LjwAg5i7 n-IlwWtC68sdHYqlBcaeyaWw/viewanalytics (Press Ctrl + Click) – Please refer to other attachments in the email: • Feedback on open ended question • PDF of feedback in charts and bars
  14. 14. Limitations: Camera as Technopoly • The technopoly of Camera – a machine - in this video does not allow us to comprehend the ‘truth’. • Let us see this video as an example • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubNF9QNEQLA • Viewing stage performance Vs viewing video – edited performance • Wider & open for interpretation Vs narrowed & close to interpretation
  15. 15. Webliography • http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-drama- and-vs-play/ • http://www.skidmore.edu/academics/theater/productions/arcadia/ playreading.html • http://artcocktail.mallforarts.com/2012/06/brief-description-of- the-ten-most-famous-paintings-in-the-world/ • http://rewindstories.blogspot.in/2012/02/my-first-performance- on-stage-i-n-grade.html (for images) • http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/king-lear/watch-the- play/487/ • http://www.fungujarati.com/gujarati-natak/gujarati-natak-amaru- sarnamu-tame-2.html • http://www.youtube.com/user/ShakespearesGlobe • http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/

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