Hamlet ~ MOOC

rolf-richardson-hamlet-statue-gower-memorial-stratford-upon-avon-warwickshire-england-united-kingdom-europeJust a quick post this morning to draw your attention to a new MOOC that is starting on the 13th of January.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Text, Performance and Culture is the first literature course to be offered by the UK MOOC platform, FutureLearn. It is being run by the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute which is part of the same University School to which I belong. Now, I can’t speak to the quality of the production values that will be involved, although if you take a look at the introductory video which you can find here then that seems to be encouraging.  However, what I can speak to is the quality of the scholarship that will have gone into the materials.  I work with these people week in and week out and I can assure you that they are amongst the leading Shakespeare scholars in the world; you won’t get better teaching anywhere. What is more, it appears from the clips that have been made available that actors from the RSC may also be involved.  The actress reading To be or not to be is Pippa Nixon, who is currently playing Ophelia and Jonathan Slinger, the current Hamlet, is also featured.

I haven’t yet sampled a FutureLearn MOOC so I don’t know how far they’ve got with developing areas such as assessment and discussion.  I do know that they themselves say they have some way to go and acknowledge that they are still learning.  You shouldn’t let that put you off, though.  This is a real opportunity to work with absolute experts.  What is more, those of us who have been struggling with the set texts for the Coursera Historical Fiction MOOC can take heart from the fact that not only is there just one text set for this module but also that it was definitely not chosen simply because the author was available to come in for a discussion.  I suppose it’s just about conceivable that someone nipped down the road, sat by the grave and asked Shakespeare whether or not Hamlet is ever really mad, but on balance I doubt it.

I’ve already signed up for this and if anyone else is thinking of doing so and would like to get together a small independent study group then I would be happy to host it.  Some of us have already done that with earlier MOOCs and it’s been a really good experience.  If you are interested then leave a note in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

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14 thoughts on “Hamlet ~ MOOC

  1. “take heart from the fact that not only is there just one text set for this module but also that it was definitely not chosen simply because the author was available to come in for a discussion” zing! It would be totally awesome though to have a seance and see if we can contact Shakespeare to ask him some questions 🙂 I saw this was being offered. Thinking about it but not sure yet.

    1. Well, one thing I know I am not going to do is try digging up his bones to see if there’s anything in the grave that might shed light on the subject. That curse sounds pretty powerful!

  2. I’m starting a FutureLearn course later this month on England in the time of Richard III, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ll be finished that one by the end of December, so will sign up for the Hamlet course as well. It will be interesting to see how FutureLearn compares with Coursera.

    1. I’m signed up to the same course, Helen, but there seems to be a delay on it. If you check on the site it now says 2014. If the Hamlet course starts on the date it’s scheduled for it may well be that one that’s finished first.

      1. I’ll have to check, but I’m fairly sure they announced that they were running the Richard III course twice – the one starting in November filled up so quickly that they’re now only taking registrations for the 2014 run. I could be wrong, but either way I should have time for Hamlet too!

  3. I meant to say I missed the news on the history course. Have signed up for Hamlet. That will be my third Future Learn course. My first one, which is on branding, is currently running and is rather disappointing. Just some short lectures each week but nothing much in the way of further reading.
    As for asking Hamlet whether he was faking it, my other Future Learn course on psychology kicked off with a discussion about Anna Karenina’s motivation in throwing herself under the train. We can speculate but what if a journalist stopped her in time and asked her why she did it ?

    1. How many children did Lady Macbeth have? It’s the standard question, isn’t it. I’m glad someone else is going to be taking the ‘Hamlet’ course. I’m too close to the people who’ve made it to be objective about it, so it will be good to have another opinion.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up about this. I went ahead and signed up. The amount of reading makes some of the other MOOCs out there seem unworkable for me at the moment, but one text that I’ve read several times seems doable. And I’ve become increasingly interested in performance traditions as I’ve seen more Shakespeare on stage. (Although, come to think of it, I’ve never seen Hamlet live.)

    1. They’re very hot on performance tradition at the Institute. It forms a large part of at least one of their Masters courses and number of the PhD students are working in that area, Teresa, so with luck you should find a lot of discussion focused in that area. I’m just writing my lecture on the performance history of Measure for Measure and you wouldn’t believe what has been done to that text over the years. My favourite is the 1662 version which got rid of all the low life and substituted Beatrice and Benedict from Much Ado instead !

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