Introduction to MA Shakespeare and Theatre – Dr Abigail Rokison


My name is Abigail Rokison and I’m the convenor
for the MA in Shakespeare & Theatre. The Shakespeare & Theatre MA has, it’s distinct
in a sense that it has a very specific core module which is called Shakespeare’s Theatre
and the idea is that it covers most aspects of Shakespeare’s writing and performance
from early Theatre practice through sources and text and genre and hopefully gets all
students to a kind of similar level at the beginning of the course, before they then
have the option of choosing from a number of different modules. The programme is essentially aimed at anybody
with an interest in Shakespeare and Shakespeare in the Theatre. The entry requirements are
that students should have a BA in a related subject. So that doesn’t have to be English
Literature or Drama, but ideally something that has some relationship to elements of
the course and in general we ask for a 2:1 and above. In the first term if students are full time
students they would take 6 modules over the year followed by their dissertation. All students
start with the Shakespeare’s Theatre core module and research skills which gives students
all the sort of information they need about where to find things and how to reference,
how to use libraries and online databases and then apart from that they get to choose
an additional 4 modules and there’s quite a range of modules that students can choose
and all of our modules are delivered in slightly different ways because we hope to appeal to
a wide range of students. So we have some modules which are delivered over 3 weekends.
This enables students who teach fulltime to come up on a Friday night, spend Friday, Saturday
and Sunday doing some intensive learning. Other modules are delivered in a one-day-a-week
in a 2 hour slot. Essentially all modules have 20 hours of lecture seminar time and
we just vary the way in which they’re taught. Some of them can be done distance learning
or on site and some like theatre practice which I teach, which is a practical course,
can only be done on site for obvious reasons. I think the Shakespeare Institute is a particularly
special place to come and study. I mean obviously it’s in Stratford and if you’re learning
about Shakespeare why not learn about Shakespeare in Stratford. We also have a collaboration
with the Royal Shakespeare Company which means that at the very least we’ve got, even yesterday
we had three actors who are in the current productions of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
and ‘Love’s Labours Lost’ coming down to talk to the students. So it offers a lot
in terms of location, but also it’s a dedicated graduate school and is a reasonably small
community. So people don’t get lost and if you come here as a fulltime student there’s
a really active community of people, there’s a really active community of people. There’s
the Shakespeare Institute Players who put on productions, there’s the Shakespeare
Institute Choir, there’s a play reading every Thursday night. So you can learn, become
much more familiar with plays by some of Shakespeare’s contemporaries that you might not have encountered
before. There’s a Thursday afternoon seminar where the whole institute comes together for
a lecture, often by a visiting speaker. So it’s ideal for people who want to be
part of a community and even our distance learners will find that when they come down
on site to do particular courses if they choose to come on site they very quickly I think
feel part of the community and those distance learners who are overseas will often try and
come and visit at some point and because there’s six, seven of us teaching within the Institute
actually we end up having quite a lot of contact with students as students who are based in
other countries who are learning, often we will have quite a significant amount of e-mail
contact with them. There’s something lovely about teaching graduate students and teaching
a range of ages and experiences within a room. It makes for a very rich exchange of ideas
I think. And I particularly enjoy a lot of the courses I teach because they have practical
elements and it’s great to actually get students up on their feet and to be exploring
Shakespeare’s plays by doing them, because after all that’s what they were written for.

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