Utilizing Student Performance in the Literature Classroom

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Diana Solomon, Department of English

Project team: Taylor Morphett, research assistant

Timeframe: March 2019 to July 2021

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: ENGL 420 – Genre Trouble

Final report: View Diana Solomon's final report (PDF) >>

Description: Students often enter literature classrooms under the impression that since literary analysis is usually (though not always) qualitative in nature, that all interpretations are valid. Studying drama presents a practical counter to this mindset, however, since some interpretations of plays are unproducible (unstageable) and other interpretations work more or less well onstage. I want to find out if involving student performance promotes a greater understanding of how literary interpretation works and doesn’t work, and what kind of evidence is needed to sustain an interpretation. I want to find out if they can discover, through engaging in a performance-based project that my research assistant and I are designing, that many interpretations of plays are nonviable because they don’t work when those plays are staged. My second goal is to discover whether such a project increases students’ engagement with and appreciation of eighteenth-century drama.

Questions addressed:

  • Does performing selections from plays enable students to discern producible, defensible, viable interpretations of literature?
  • Is students’ learning of course concepts demonstrated through their performance assignment?
  • After students give the performance, are they able to transfer their interpretive skills to another text?
  • Were students more engaged in learning in this course compared to courses that take a more traditional approach?

Knowledge sharing:  I shared findings at the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Quebec City in October 2019. In preparation for the conference, I organized a panel on approaches to teaching eighteenth-century theatre and performance, and then spoke on the panel about this project. (I had also planned to share it with my department at an in-house teaching roundtable, but this was prevented due to the COVID shutdown).

Keywords:  Restoration and eighteenth-century theatre; performance; producible interpretation; dramaturgy