Rosanne Fleszar Denhard
Ph.D., State University of New York-Albany
M.A., College of St. Rose
B.A., College of St. Rose
Spring 2013 Office Hours
M 2:30-3:00 & 5-5:30;
T 12:30-2; W 5-5:30;
Th 2-3; & by appointment
Mark Hopkins 103-C | 413- 662-5195 | Email Rosanne Denhard
Travel Course: Arts of Med/Ren. Britain
Areas of Teaching, Scholarship, & Special Projects
Medieval and Early Modern/Renaissance British literature and interdisciplinary arts and culture; literary theory; literature in performance; life-writing; pedagogy.
William Shakespeare; Advanced Shakespeare; British Literary Survey; Critical Reading; The Age of Milton; Medieval & Renaissance English Drama; The Age of Chaucer; Novels in Context; Arts of Medieval & Renaissance Britain (travel course); Senior Seminar: Early Modern Life-Writing
Why I do what I do
Through my work I can communicate the joy and solace found in the narratives of the past. I believe that--across time and space and all that divides people--there are human expressions that transcend these divisions, or at least make them comprehensible, in ways that illuminate something of the human experience. We can't access the past without understanding history and culture, so the study of context is vital. Ultimately, it's all about human stories: complex, interwoven, changing, repeating. . . a continuum.
In recent years my work has been recognized by the MCLA Faculty Association's Senior Faculty Award (2009); Faculty Creative Project Award, for film project documenting my methods of teaching Shakespeare (2007); and the Senior Class Faculty Appreciation Award (2006).
Reflections. . .
For me, the 2010-2011 academic year was full of adventure and discovery. In Fall 2010 I had the pleasure of a sabbatical semester. Sabbatical presents time to look back, to revitalize, and to move forward. Sabbatical is also a time to step outside of the usual. I did that literally and figuratively with travels to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and to Paris, and with opening and continuing collaborations with colleagues near and far to foster new connections and new learning. During my semester-long Fall sabbatical, I continued work on long-term projects of relevance to my teaching and contributions to scholarship in the study of medieval and early modern British literature and culture. In both Old San Juan and Paris, I pursued connections with the literature, other art forms, and material cultures of those geographic locations in ways that enriched my understanding of the relationship between 16th/17th-century Britain and its Spanish colonial and European continental counterparts. I love exploring and sharing and teaching and helping to bring the literature and arts-and lives-of earlier times to my students and I was able to take much of this learning back into my teaching for the Spring semester.
The time off truly did prove to be revitalizing, though I missed teaching while away and enjoyed getting back to classes for the Spring 2011 semester. It was especially exciting to work with the students in my 400-level Special Topic course in Medieval and Early Modern British Drama. Inspired by my trip to Paris and by the knowledge that the International Margaret Cavendish Society's theme for the 2011 Biennial International Conference would be "The Cavendishes and Anglo-European Cultural Exchange: Seventeenth-Century Dutch, Flemish and French Influences," I decided to present my students with a collaborative research project assignment that would challenge them to explore the concept of exile in Margaret Cavendish's life and writing. The results of the work undertaken by this talented class were extraordinary, and Shelby Giaccarini, Kristen Lafond, Katelynn Larson, Alex Marshall, and Steven O'Connor presented their work in a Special Session of MCLA's 2011 Undergraduate Research Conference. My presentation of the project from the faculty perspective at the July 2011 conference in Ghent and Antwerp, Belgium traces how the students focused attention on biographical and cultural contexts of Margaret and William's time in Paris and Antwerp as influential on Margaret's post-exile published play, The Convent of Pleasure. My presentation highlights collaborations with my colleague Dawn Shamburger of the Fine and Performing Arts Department and our students in merging contextual research, performance experiments, and imaginative renderings of historical costume. Prof. Shamburger's student of historical costume, Laura Krebs, focused on researching 17th-century European clothing and designed and constructed a costume creation inspired by The Convent of Pleasure. The students from the literary studies and historical costume studies groups merged their learning in coming to a collaborative understanding of how strategies of textual and material self-fashioning-practices relevant throughout Margaret Cavendish's life-were articulated during those years on the Continent and permeated her later work in the drama genre.
The sharing of work is a key part of the academic process in all disciplines. Students have opportunities to do this in the classroom, but participating in an undergraduate research conference is a different experience. When students share their research and other academic and artistic work in a conference setting, they become part of the larger conversation in their fields of study and they also reach others outside of their immediate focus area. This is a factor in making our students better prepared for graduate school and for their future careers. MCLA hosted the regional Undergraduate Research Conference of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) in Fall 2010. The COPLAC URC featured the work of a dozen or so MCLA students, including two students--Kirsten Alberti and Devin Kibbe--presenting projects completed with my guidance. For the Fall 2011 regional COPLAC URC to be hosted by Keene State College in New Hampshire , I am advising two seniors-Katelynn Larson and Alex Marshall--in continuing research projects in British Early Modern literary studies that they began in Spring 2010. Meanwhile, the June 2011 COPLAC-CUR Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, which I will attend with colleagues from our campus, will provide some new perspectives and strategies for further enhancing undergraduate research at MCLA. "Institutionalizing Undergraduate Research" is a gathering of teams from 23 COPLAC campuses to discuss the high impact practice of undergraduate research.
About my teaching style
My classes are active and discussion-oriented. Students ask questions and actively seek answers both independently and as part of a community of learners. Over the years, MCLA has consistently maximized my ability to help students achieve success and to take away something lasting for their continued use and benefit. My students explore literary studies in ways they might not have experienced before--experimenting with literature in performance; learning the arts and culture of Britain "live" through the Arts of Medieval and Renaissance Britain travel course; polishing their research projects for presentation at the MCLA Undergraduate Research Conference, Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference and COPLAC Regional Undergraduate Conference; collaborating in projects such as the Margaret Cavendish Performance Project with Prof. Gweno Williams at the College of York-St. John, UK and with master teachers at Shakespeare's Globe; and using technology in a student-designed class website for the Arts of Medieval and Renaissance Britain course and the production of videotaped literature-in-performance programs. This sort of engaged and "hands on" collaborative learning is so rewarding for students and also opens new insights for me into teaching and learning. Participation in the Berkshire Compact's "Berkshire County Goes to College" program has provided my students and me with a forum for sharing our passion for English/Communications and Liberal Arts education with enthusiastic 6th -grade students from area schools, helping them to imagine their futures in higher education.
My Advanced Shakespeare class students have participated in a service learning project in teaching and learning Shakespeare at Pine Cobble School in Williamstown, introducing Shakespeare's sonnets and Romeo and Juliet to eighth. This project took MCLA students out of their own classroom and into the 8th grade with the goal of helping a class of middle schoolers enter the world of Shakespeare's play. As the project evolved, MCLA students experimented with sharing the basic approach to teaching and learning Shakespeare that we cultivate in our classes. Our work with the middle-schoolers emphasizes detailed work with language via slow, close reading as the way into a text--an approach that gives voice to the text after a careful reading that serves as a "base". We also include work with Shakespeare's cultural and historical contexts to foster an understanding of Renaissance culture and its similarities and differences with our contemporary world. The project was the subject of an article in The Berkshire Eagle and part of a film project with Rob Wedge ('07) documenting my work in teaching through performance. In April 2009, Advanced Shakespeare students presented their work at the Shakespeare Studies Special Session of the Undergraduate Research Conference.
Conference Presentations & Special Projects
As a teaching scholar, I value continued research and collaboration. My July 2011 presentation for the International Margaret Cavendish Society's Biennial Conference in Belgium is entitled, "From Continental Exile to The Convent of Pleasure: Undergraduate Student Explorations of Margaret Cavendish's Textual & Material Self-Fashioning". In March of 2011, I presented a Faculty Brown Bag talk and slide show: "What I Did During My Fall Sabbatical: Reflections on a Semester out of the Classroom." In November, 2009 I presented a workshop on "Approaches to Studying Early Modern Women in the Undergraduate Classroom" with my collaborator Prof. Gweno Williams at the Attending to Early Modern Women Symposium at The Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies, University of Maryland at College Park. In June/July 2007 I presented a paper and video project "Learning through Performance: An Approach to the Undergraduate Study of The Convent of Pleasure" for a Special Session on Teaching Margaret Cavendish at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference, University of Sheffield, UK. In November, 2006 I participated in the Attending to Early Modern Women Symposium with a workshop entitled "Early Modern Education: (Men) Teaching Women in Europe and the New World" in collaboration with Profs. Deborah Uman of St. John Fisher College and Belen Bistue of University of California-Davis. In April 2006 I directed a student cast in a performance of the Shakespeare Sonnet Performance project in Venable Theatre. In July, 2005 I traveled to the UK to present my paper "Bathsua Makin's Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen and the Writing of Four Early Modern Women" as a part of a panel on critical and pedagogical approaches to the writing of "professional" women writers of the 17th century at the "Still Kissing the Rod?" Conference on Early Modern Women's Writing at St. Hilda's College, Oxford University. At home on the MCLA campus, my presentation, "'Out Loud and On Your Feet': An Approach to Studying Shakespeare," premiering the Shakespeare portion of my documentary film project, was part of the Brown Bag Faculty Lecture Series. A short essay co-authored with Gweno K. Williams, "Drama by Early Modern Women: Text into Performance," a summary of our workshop, was published in Structures and Subjectivities: Attending to Early Modern Women 2003, co-edited by Adele Seef and Joan Hartman by University of Delaware Press in 2007.
Back to Britain in 2012 with The Arts of Medieval& Renaissance Britain class
During the Spring 2012 semester, I will travel to Great Britain again during Spring Break with my Arts of Medieval & Renaissance Britain class for the travel component of this full-semester course. The course is a cross-listed offering of the English/Communications Department and the Honors Program. During travel, our base locations will likely be the English cities of York and London, with a day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. We participate in a wide variety of activities, all tuned to the course's interdisciplinary arts focus on the wide historical span of the medieval through Renaissance periods in British cultural history. Many of these are quite in-depth--not typical tourist fare at all. The course uses literary texts as a base, but moves into a much wider sense of interdisciplinary learning. Music, painting, dance, architecture-we experience all of these in addition to reading poetry and prose of the periods we're exploring. The students travel to put all the pieces of this gigantic historical and cultural puzzle together. They're well prepared to make connections to further their learning in quite sophisticated ways. The best students take full positive advantage of this. Each student completes a major research project -which has the option of incorporating creative work-developed in consultation with me.
All our travel activities are integrated into the course as a whole. For example, our visit to the re-creation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London serves as a research site for study of Shakespeare and Renaissance theatre, popular culture, clothing and costume, and period architecture. Different students use the Globe's resources in different ways. Then, to further the Shakespeare learning segment of our course, we attend a production of a Shakespeare play. When the class and I saw the Almeida Theatre Company's Measure for Measure in 2010, we all had differing and lively perceptions of that performance and talked about it for weeks.
In 2010 my students from MCLA met with students of my collaborator Prof. Gweno Williams at York St. John University (YSJU) for an exciting afternoon of cross-cultural exploration in an Intercultural Symposium that was student-directed. The students shared research on language and dialect, educational systems, their local histories, and campus life with their counterparts from "across the pond" and also organized a "book swap". The MCLA students brought copies of Spires, our literature and arts magazine, to the YSJU students, an especially meaningful gift since a number of the MCLA student travelers had work featured in the publication. The students from both schools followed the afternoon with an evening of socializing on the YSJU campus and around town in York. Research, collaboration, the opportunity to problem-solve both academically and socially while away from campus and home-it's an amazingly rich learning opportunity. Read More about the Travel Course: Arts of Med/Ren. Britain.