Elizabethan Lingo: Public Speaking with the Bard
Presentation: Maya Tracy Borhani
Session A | 9:00 – 9:40 | Location: Room 1004
Trained actors, singers, and radio personalities know how to utilize vocal skills to create memorable performances; but what about the rest of us? How do we overcome anxiety, exude confidence, and communicate our ideas clearly when it’s our turn to speak? In this presentation, I’ll describe my investigations with community college students as they learned to recite Shakespeare for our Public Speaking class. Relying primarily on data from participant observation and reflective writing (my students and my own), I’ll explore how this practice helped create more skilled and confident orators who grew to recognize the power in their own voices.
Reciting Shakespeare and learning to “speak the speech . . . trippingly on the tongue” (Hamlet, III, ii) is a fun, effective tool for improving public speaking skills. Studying Shakespeare’s speech, students experience the use of detailed, vivid examples; embodying his persuasive eloquence, they feel themselves as agents of change in a sweeping rhetorical tradition that dates back thousands of years, yet is as current and necessary today as ever. By engaging with Shakespeare as “live” performance/practice, students find a counter-‐narrative to memes and tweets, experiencing the importance of well-‐modulated voices and inspiring elocution. Praxis of critical thinking and creativity, this helps students discern the broader discourses before them today, and the viability of participating voices. When personifying Iago’s treacherous deceit, Mark Antony’s grief, or Portia’s spicy wit, students expand their comprehension of the arc of history, and their compassion for all the players on that stage. Thus, students discover that their current-‐event speeches have broader social-‐historical contexts than previously realized: civilizations before ours have faced crises, and citizens have taken matters into their own hands by speaking up. Each student’s speech becomes part of that age-‐old process: speaking out against injustice; speaking up for love.
Our session will include discussion of how this model might be adapted to meet participants’ varying classroom, program, or institution-‐based purposes. Shakespeare helps educators grapple with questions of how to best reach today’s students, how to retain their interest, and how to keep delivering curriculum that invigorates and enriches scholarship and student’s lives.