Advanced Literature (8/15/14)

Mikita Brottman writes:

 Today we read the murder scene in “Macbeth,” and I was surprised how focused the men were. Each of them was following the text closely; some of them were even running their fingers along the lines and mouthing the words to themselves silently as the readers spoke their parts. The room was unusually quiet and tense as the scene unfolded, the silence outside the room disturbed only by the occasional raised voices and laughter coming from the classroom next door. During the murder itself, the men were alarmed by Macbeth’s jittery behavior, and annoyed with him for forgetting to leave the bloody daggers in Duncan’s chamber with the grooms. As we read, I realized that, although I’d read Macbeth many times in many places with lots of different kinds of students, I’d never read it with people who might very well have experienced such a crime first hand. From this point of view, Macbeth really was making a hash of things.

1 Comment

  1. MicaHumanist

    From a MICA grad student who sat in on the class:

    After everyone introduced themselves, Mikita passed out copies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Previously, they had been reading Macbeth. I was surprised to hear that they would be allowed to read such a bloody play. I took a step back to analyze my feelings of surprise. High school students are often required to read Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, so why shouldn’t these grown men be able to read texts that have death, suicide, and murder in them?
    I must have thought that the mere act of reading would rile them up and perhaps reawaken something…? I don’t think I actually believe that, but for a moment apparently I did. I am still trying to understand my initial reaction, Now, I am asking myself if this means I ultimately believe in the power of art and literature. I have never aligned myself with the camp of thinkers who suggest that consuming depictions of violence makes one more violent, so that is why I am taken aback by my own thoughts. The more I consider it, the more I find myself thinking that texts that present violence and ethical questions seem especially appropriate in a prison setting where the inmates are told to think about what they did. Yet thinking about it every hour of every day seems excessive (perverse even). Never thinking about it is frowned upon as well (at least from the POV of those on the outside). So how much is enough, and how much is taboo?

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