A few friends and I have started a Shakespeare Project. We want to read Shakespeare’s plays, starting with the ones we’re least familiar with and moving up to the biggies we all remember from college, taking about two weeks to read each one. (This is kind of a repeat of a project my family undertook when I was in high school. We’d all read a play a week and then sit down on Sundays to watch the BBC versions of the plays. It was a project I mostly resented at the time, but now really want to do.) So every morning I get up, make hot chocolate while feeding the cat, and then spend half an hour or 45 minutes reading a few scenes of Shakespeare. When the cat finishes his breakfast, he jumps up to sit quietly with his front paws planted as near to the left-hand edge of my Complete Works of Shakespeare as possible so that I can run my fingers along his head and shoulders while I read and sip hot chocolate. Pretty idyllic.
Anyway, I was reading All’s Well That Ends Well, which I had just seen beautifully performed by the National Theatre about 10 days ago, and I suddenly realized that there had been whole little scenes of action in the production that simply don’t show up in the dialog on the page. The actors and directors had taken the time to wonder why some of those off-hand lines were there, and to build that world into their production. Left to my own devices, novice that I am, I’m incapable of seeing the world that exists between the lines of dialog on the page, but that world is so much richer and more fascinating than the pure dialog admits.
As I taught a couple classes of freshmen this week and tried to build a picture of college-level research for them, I wondered yet again how to bridge the gap between expert and novice. I see conversations where they see bits of data. I see interconnections between vocabulary and lines of arguement where they see result list after result list that doesn’t contain “sources on my topic” (by which they mean “sources that say what I’m about to argue”). How do I first describe the world between the lines for them, and then help them develop the capacity to imagine it for themselves?