Embodying the Book: Studies in Literature and Performance

Winter 2020
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Steve Blakeslee
English, writing, literature
Marla Elliot
performance, voice, community studies

In this program, students will equip themselves—as readers, writers, and performers—to bring literature fully to life through the medium of their voices. We will work from the supposition that literature is a living thing —a medium that is meant to be deeply felt as well as analyzed or critiqued, and one that builds essential empathetic bridges between humans. Together we will discover how reading that literature aloud —literally embodying it—can enable us to forge profound connections with a text, with a community of listeners, and ultimately with ourselves.

Our work begins with the cultivation of our voices as sensitive instruments of expression. In a safe and supportive environment, students will build their skills in effective sound production, enunciation, tone, pacing, emphasis, and rhythm. At the same time, they will pursue intensive study of select narrative, dramatic, and poetic texts, developing the nuanced intellectual and emotional understandings necessary to forge meaningful individual and group recitations. We will devote a great deal of time to reading these texts aloud and exploring their workings together.

Our texts will include literary works such as Muriel Sparks’s influential The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Jim Lynch’s contemporary novel of the Northwest, The Highest Tide ; a wide range of traditional and contemporary poetry; and practical manuals such as Rodenburg’s The Right to Speak and Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook . Class sessions will likely include seminars, workshops, guest presentations, films, small-group critiques, and frequent in-class recitations. We will also attend a Harlequin Theater adaptation of Lynch’s book. Students will work in groups to prepare and present major readings. Outside of class, students will write response papers on the texts, keep program journals, and maintain a regular voice practice.

Credit equivalencies will be awarded in the areas of American and English literature (4) and oral interpretation (4). This program will prepare participants for further studies in humanities and communications, and will equip them with valuable skills in analysis, synthesis, critique, teamwork, and public speaking that they can apply to a wide variety of endeavors. Join us!

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Humanities, education, literature, teaching, performing, and fields involving public speaking


Credits per quarter

Fields of study: 
Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$10 fee for theater tickets

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Evening

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020 - 6:00 pm
SEM 2 B2105 - Workshop

Located in: Olympia

2019-11-25$10 student fee added
2019-10-25Description Updated