The free, public online course, which combines literary study with theatrical analysis of Shakespeare’s works, will be team-taught by Wellesley English and Theatre Faculty

October 1, 2014
Creative Commons image by Nic McPhee.

Wellesley, Mass. – Wellesley College brings one of the world’s most famous playwrights to the digital stage for its newest offering on the College’s edX platform, WellesleyX, starting October 1. “Shakespeare: On the Page and In Performance,” taught by Wellesley’s Yu Jin Ko, professor of English, and Diego Arciniegas, senior lecturer in theatre studies, provides an opportunity to study Shakespeare’s works in the interdisciplinary context of literature and theatre. The course, like all WellesleyX offerings, is free and open to anyone with an Internet connection, regardless of gender or geography.

Wellesley first announced its partnership with edX, an online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT, in December 2012. Wellesley was the first liberal arts college to join, as well as the first women’s college to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs). “A MOOC is a great vehicle for studying Shakespeare,” said Ko. “Shakespeare worked in a theatre that was popular and accessible to a wide cross-section of society.  Studying his plays together as a diverse and ‘massive’ online community thus carries forward the spirit that permeated his theatre.”

Shakespeare: On the Page and In Performance is designed to help students more fully understand Shakespeare’s enduring influence in the English literary tradition by integrating critical study of the text with analysis of the plays as dramatic productions. The aim of the course, Ko said, is for students “to gain a fuller understanding of Shakespeare's greatness and popularity by learning to bring literary and theatrical analysis into dialogue.”

To emphasize the performance aspect of Shakespeare’s plays, Ko and Arciniegas plan to involve actors throughout the course who will bring the Bard’s words to life. Works studied include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, King Lear, and The Winter's Tale. Most of the course’s lectures were filmed in Ko’s Introduction to Shakespeare and Elizabethan Shakespeare classes, along with Arciniegas's Acting Shakespeare course. The course also incorporates the early October visit to Wellesley by The Actors from the London Stage.

Yu Jin Ko teaches Shakespeare’s plays at all levels, from introductory courses for non-English majors to advanced seminars on Shakespeare in performance. He is the author of Mutability And Division On Shakespeare's Stage (University of Delaware Press, 2004) and co-editor of Shakespeare's Sense of Character: On the Page and From the Stage (Ashgate, 2012), a collection of essays from Shakespeare scholars and theatre professionals.

“One of the unique features of this course is that it takes us into the world of performance and theatre in various ways,” Ko said. “We incorporate not only footage from existing films and stage performances, but also clips of performances that we produced under the direction of Diego Arciniegas, a theatre professional and Senior Lecturer in the Theatre Studies program.” 

Arciniegas has taught courses on subjects ranging from techniques of acting to advanced scene study. He served as the artistic director of Publick Theatre Boston from 2001 to 2010. He said producing the course gave him a new perspective on the ongoing debates over the future of online education. “Some people worry about MOOCs replacing the residential college experience,” he said. “I think what surprised me is the degree to which a MOOC can reinforce the value of the residential college experience.”

To date, Wellesley has offered an anthropology course on human evolution, a history course on the legacy of Alexander the Great, and an introduction to global sociology on the WellesleyX platform. WellesleyX offerings represent the breadth of disciplines available at the College, and also some of the most popular courses taught at Wellesley.

Register today for ENG112x Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance, or view this and other WellesleyX course offerings at:

About Wellesley College
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been the preeminent liberal arts college for women. Known for its intellectual rigor and its remarkable track record for the cultivation of women leaders in every arena, Wellesley—only 12 miles from Boston—is home to some 2,400 undergraduates from every state and 75 countries.

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