Teaching Hamlet in Digital Media

hamletmemesThis semester in my Literature in Digital Media class, I’m experimenting with teaching a unit on Hamlet in a few innovative ways.

Week 1: Hamlet and Editorial Theory

The unit began by assigning an article about the textual history of the play. I divided the class into 6 groups and assigned each group a different digital edition for them to read, examine, and report on. The goal was to dispel the fallacy of texts as singular and authoritative and provide a more flexible notion of a work that can accommodate multiple texts. Here’s a link to the course schedule with the readings for that week.

Week 2: Multimedia Hamlet

After the groups had presented their editions and we had discussed them as a class, I assigned assigned 5 different film adaptations of Hamlet– one to each group (I had to combine two groups)– and asked them to watch the films over the weekend. And to come prepared to discuss the films in groups and with the class. I also had them keep their eyes open for memorable moments in the films that they could screen-capture and creates memes with.

Each member of each group was then assigned an act from the play that they would use to create memes with.  The parameters were to use: an image from the film, text from the Hamlet, and their own text, and “to strive for humor or wit, or some thought-provoking observation about the play, characters, situation, etc.” The goal was for the students to use a familiar form (the image + caption meme) to engage the materiality of Hamlet‘s text and film productions.

The students then worked in groups to develop a pecha kucha presentation that retold their film adaptation of Hamlet using memes (see link for assignment parameters). The presentations allowed the students the opportunity to comment on the film adaptation by focusing on the aspects that stood out to them.

Here’s a link to the course blog entry for that week.

Week 3: Remixable, Spreadable Hamlet

Over the weekend, I sent feedback to my students, reinforcing it in class to revise their memes, particularly if they contained any kind of potentially offensive language choices (there were a few cases) and to edit them for readability and spelling. In addition to the obvious reasons, I wanted them to revise them because they now have the assignment to share their memes on Twitter in a group performance titled “Hamlet: The Meme Edition.” Each day of the week, the students will tweet the memes from the corresponding act (Monday = Act I, Tuesday = Act II, and so on). Here’s a link to the assignment. So far, the #hamletmemes are a hit on Twitter and have been retweeted many times. The compiled tweets, organized by acts are available here.

During the week, we’re discussing other remixes and adaptations of Hamlet, including Twitter bots, a video game, and a choose-your-own-adventure version, all in the context of Spreadable Media by Henry Jenkins’ et al. Here’s a link to the assigned material. The goal is to show my students how Shakespeare’s plays are part of public discourse and are therefore quotable, remixable, spreadable, memorable, and available for all kinds of performances on and off the stage.

This is their Hamlet.

Their reaction?


We presented the work live at Out Loud!. Here’s a link to the presentation slideshow.