Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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400 Times William Shakespeare Totally Blew Our Minds

400 Times William Shakespeare Totally Blew Our Minds | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The Bard's been dead 400 years, and he's still killing it.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
28 April 2016

I'll let the Bard speak for himself and limit my commentary to:
1. He spoke for all of us

2. He touched on a few subjects you might want to preview before sharing with students

3. Best book on Shakespeare in my mind is Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage an intriguing collection of stories about what we know and don't really know about Shakespeare.

And (I'm so excited) Bill Bryson was recently announced as being one of next year's speakers at the Oakland Speakers Series. Whoo hoo!

Another semi-off the subject bit of Shakespeariana.
Here in California earthquake country, the local Shakespeare outdoor Shakespeare theatre is lovingly referred to as 
Cal Shakes! (and it does!)

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LeeMitchell's curator insight, April 29, 6:10 PM
Why is this news?  Because it's Shakespeare!
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Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island - BBC News

Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island - BBC News | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Oxford University academics discover a first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays in a Scottish stately home.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
12 April 2016

All I can say is "I'll be darned." As an English major this is of MAJOR interest.

To students not inclined to become English majors, perhaps the interest, if any is modest.

But to those of us who care as deeply as we do it is "blow your mind" exciting that such discoveries are still to be hoped for.

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GoogleLitTrips Reading List's curator insight, April 12, 10:09 PM
12 April 2016

All I can say is "I'll be darned." As an English major this is of MAJOR interest.

To students not inclined to become English majors, perhaps the interest, if any is modest.

But to those of us who care as deeply as we do it is "blow your mind" exciting that such discoveries are still to be hoped for.

brought to you by GLT Global ED dba Google Lit Trips, an educational nonprofit
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10 Everyday Phrases That Originated From Poetry

10 Everyday Phrases That Originated From Poetry | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
By Max Minckler for Riffle: Think poetry has nothing to do with you?
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I can't help but wonder how many of these "everyday phrases" actually are still everyday phrases. That is, are they too just something "old people" say? 


"Chickens coming home to roost"?

"Method to his madness"?

"Bite the dust"?


Really? Are these stiil everyday phrases? 


To be clear, I'm not suggesting that these phrases are not phrases that today's students can learn and come to understand. I'm simply suggesting that if the point is that they might be interesting to students because they ARE everyday phrases, as in they hear them frequently, and therefore might be potential engagement bridges between their own lives and the classics from which they originated, that this might not be a valid conclusion to draw or rely upon when designing an engaging learning experience for many 21st century learners.


I kind of felt a similar question when I first showed West Side Story to my students a few decades ago. When it came out it was a modern day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. And, supposedly generated engaged traction with young people who were young THEN. But, that bridge is pretty aged now. 


Don't get me wrong, there are still fans of West Side Story, even among today's youth. But, for many the fact that it is a modern day adaptation just doesn't hold. Gangsters wearing neckties?


That's funnier than it is bridging for many.


There is a surge of modern day Shakespeare (and other classic literature) adaptations coming from Hollywood today. They may well be perceived and thus more welcomed as "modern day" bridges to the classics. And, they will succeed in ways that West Side Story succeeded when it actually looked at least a little bit like what Hollywood teenagers looked like to teenage audiences in 1961. Teen age audiences in 2013 are not seeing a Hollywood version of contemporary teens in West Side Story.


And, I'm all for recognizing that best practices change or evolve in order to create more successful connections for students and educators of the day. The Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet, though clearly "Hollywoodized" had a much closer similarity to its contemporary teen audiences in 1996.


But, that very recognition is also at the heart of my realization that best practices, like #1 songs, fads, fashions, box office blockbuster movies, like video games, like so much that we know can move massive numbers of people to engage enthusiastically in that particular area of interest, has a shelf life. 


Remember Gangham Style? CDs? Neighborhood video rental stores?


Connecting to the contemporary is a great practice while that connection is in fact contemporary.


Some things never quite die, but their attractiveness as a means of generating engaging "contemporary" connections begins to fade for at least a very large proportion of those who once were captivated by those contemporary connections. And, I'd suggest that we amplify the problem by also considering those students who really are too young to have ever been a contemporary beneficiary of the powerful connections as likely to "appreciate the contemporary connections" for resources that never were contemporary in their own lifetimes.


Perhaps the shelf life of contemporary connectivity ought to be considered.  And, best practice regarding the use of "aging" resources, might require the moving those resources from the required learning experience shelf to the optional learning experience shelf.


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Shakespeare Is Hot Again

Shakespeare Is Hot Again | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A slew of current projects -- ranging from young adult novels to television to a rumored Anne Hathaway film -- aim to make Shakespeare accessible to a contemporary audience.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

There is a lot of money being bet on the attractiveness of Shakespearean storylines! Perhaps that is an indication that we who love Shakespeare might have hope.


I remember well the English department meeting after the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet was released. There was a great divide between those who loved it and those who did not. Yet the department division between the purists and the rest of the department was ironically completely different from the department diviision between those who showed Westside Story as part of their Romeo and Juliet unit and those who did not.


I was one of those who loved the DiCaprio film yet despised the Westside Story film, though I did like the music and recently had the opportunity to see Rita Moreno's tour de force "Life Without Makeup" which gave me a new appreciation of Westside Story's place in its time particularly as her own Hollywood experiences as a young Puetro Rican actress mirrored in many ways the Montegue vs Capulet foolishness.


The question of whether Shakespeare should only be taught in its purest form is almost laughable for so many reasons...

First and foremost is that Shakespeare's "purest form" is not text; it is performance. Though, I was still too immature, intellectually and otherwise, to harvest a wealth of benefits from the Franco Zefferelli film, I did find myself actually paying attention to the plotline particularly so after the scene where Juliet leans over the balcony! But, really, the story was told in stunning visual and audio enhanced splendor. It was actually a breakthrough moment for me in appreciation of not only great storytelling, but also in a newfound appreciation for a glorious soundtrack.


Secondly, Shakespeare, as any scholar knows, relied heavily upon updating old stories for his contemporary audiences.


Thirdly, he knew well the downside of catering to the high brow only crowd. He certainly was quite aware of the value of playing to his audience whether they were mostly entertained by the low-brow raunchy humor of the nurse or by the tragic deaths of both Romeo and Juliet.


And if anyone has seen Shakespeare performed recently on stage at one of the many, many prestigious Shakespeare festivals, it is quite likely that the staging was purposely adapted to blend elements of the pure with elements of other very different times and places settings.


I realize that there may be results of this tsunami of Shakespeare-inspired work that are disappointing. But, I also suspect that many of the results might bring a fresh interest in the bard's themes and works to another generation. And, that might not be a bad idea.


But, don't let me cram my opinions down anyone's throats. 


Here's what Shakespeare, himself had to say on the subject...



Sonnet 59

If there be nothing new, but that which is 

Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss 
The second burden of a former child. 
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun, 
Show me your image in some antique book, 
Since mind at first in character was done! 
That I might see what the old world could say 
To this composed wonder of your frame; 
Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,
Or whether revolution be the same. 
O, sure I am, the wits of former days 
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.



If there is nothing new under the sun, but that which
Has been before, how are our brains cheated,
Which, toiling to create something new, mistakenly
Brings forth something that already exists
O, that history could go back
Even five hundred years
To show me your picture in some old book,
At any time since thought was first put down in writing!
That I might see what an earlier time would say
To this wonderful beauty of your frame (mind, body, and soul);
Whether we are improved or they were better,
Or whether the cycle of years has yielded no better results.
O, I am sure of this, the wits [talented men] of former times
Have given praise to much worse subjects than this. 

original and paraphrase from...Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 59. Ed. Amanda Mabillard. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (January 23, 2013) < >.

But of course, Shakespeare too was simply refreshing Ecclesiastes 1:9
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with reminding each generation in ways they can find relevant, of the great "universal truths" that can be found in the great stories.

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Iam Raj's comment, January 25, 2013 2:14 AM
Good Article about Shakespeare Stories.. He is god gift to English Language.. Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
-William Shakespeare ~ Read More Quotes @
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Lego Marks Anniversary Of Shakespeare's Death In Typically Awesome Way

Lego Marks Anniversary Of Shakespeare's Death In Typically Awesome Way | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The Danish company used stop motion animation to recreate the Bard's most iconic scenes.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
22 April 2016

This is pretty darned cool! Gotta watch the video and then watch it again, and again, and, well as cool as it is you've probably got chores to get to sometime today.

Happy B-Day to "Shaka-spee-air-ray." 

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'Stay, Illusion!': Re-reading Hamlet | KQED

'Stay, Illusion!': Re-reading Hamlet | KQED | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
In their re-reading of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet,' philosophy professor Simon Critchley and psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster examine the play alongside writers and philosophers such as Lacan, Freud and Melville.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

An interesting radio interview by one of my favorite NPR hosts, broadcast yesterday. It's almost an hour long, but takes a look at Hamlet through the perspective of Karasney's guests Dr. Jamieson Webster a psychoanalyst and Dr. Simon Critchley a philosophy professor.


Quite worth considering by any literary reading educator and potentially of value for more academic students. 


The premise is that by looking at Hamlet through the filters of both physchoanalysis and philosophy we can see why the play endures as a relevant exploration of the human condition.


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Skeleton of England's Richard III found under parking lot

Skeleton of England's Richard III found under parking lot | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
It took five centuries but the mystery over what happened to the remains of England's last Plantagenet king, Richard III, is finally solved.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember an attentive moment in an otherwise generally unengaged interest in high school English when the teacher said something like, "There is truth and then there is Truth with a capital "T." I don't remember what we were reading at the time. I suppose it might well have been "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" or The Grapes of Wrath. I dunno. But the point was, as is the case in both of those stories, the known facts alone, though they may all be facts, never tell the whole truth. In some cases the facts are cherry-picked as in the oft quoted "History is written by the victors" or as in too much of too many political debates.


The capital "T" Truth, I was told had more to do with universal truths; those truths that seem to be universally present themes of humankind regardless of time or place. They deal with motivations behind the wise and the foolish; the virtuous and the vicious. And, what snapped me out of my glassy-eyed semi-attentiveness, ironically, was the teacher's suggestion that "perhaps we can learn more about the universal Truths by reading fiction than by reading nonfiction." 


My unanticipated engaged interest led to a rather rare experience. I raised my hand and asked a serious question. "Wait a minute! That doesn't make any sense? Are you saying that stories that are true aren't as true as stories that aren't true." 


I actually don't remember the response to my specific question, but I do remember finding the explanation interesting and enjoyably eye-opening. And, the part of the answer that I do remember was the teacher simply asking the class the question, "How can shrimp be jumbo?" And I'll be darned if that teacher didn't take the opportunity to toss in a quick lesson on oxymorons! 


I left class that day wondering, "What the heck just happened? That class was really interesting!" 


Oh yeah! The article...


From the article...

"Modern views of the medieval king have been heavily influenced by Shakespeare's portrayal in the play Richard III, historians say."


"Shakespeare shows Richard as a power-hungry, Machiavellian scoundrel who goes around murdering anyone who stands in the way of his ascent to power. He depicts him as having a withered arm but the new scientific evidence discredits this description as both of the skeleton's arms are the same length."


So, was Shakespeare's Richard the real Richard? If Shakespeare's "facts" were inaccurate, was his portrayal of Richard as evil merely "true" or was it "Truth." Was fictionalizing Richard a way of discussing the universal Truths associated with some Truth often associated with the motivations and actions of those obsessed with power and greed? It makes for a great story and I'll be darned if it doesn't shine an interesting light on the General George Custers and Ken Lays and Bernie Madoffs of the world.


Did Steinbeck really have to "stick strictly to the facts alone" to make very similar points in The Grapes of Wrath? Steinbeck was actually reviled for "not telling the truth" while at the same time being revered for telling many capital "T" Truths.


Though Steinbeck made his point through intentionally fictionalized characters, pinning his criticisms on "no particular real person," Shakespeare may have crossed a line into what might be recognized as unfair slander by choosing a "real person." That is, if his portrayal of more important untruths than a mere discrepancy regarding Richard's arm are maligning Richard's character and historical contributions then I'd suppose that there are those who would question the ethics of cherry-picking facts or misleading those who read his work assuming that the stories rested upon historical accuracy But, of course, we should keep in mind that having never actually published his work where a disclaimer might have been recorded, we have no way of knowing whether contemporary audiences were or were not aware of or made aware of, Shakespeare's use of "poetic license."


So here's one for your irony collection. The article's very next paragraph following the one quoted above is...


"Langley said Richard III was a progressive leader who pioneered a system of bail for those arrested, the legal principles of presumption of innocence until proven guilty and blind justice, and that he introduced books to England."


Wow!! "...and he introduced books to England."


Hey Shakespeare, (if that really was your name), what's up with that? 


Next thing you know, we'll find out George Washington never threw a dollar across the Potomac! 


But of course, even those of us who seriously doubt that he did, must admit that a dollar did go a lot further in those days.



btw... just finished re-reading Bill Bryson's excellent Shakespeare: The World as Stage. A fairly short but deep exploration of the "actual known facts of Shakespeare's life." One of my favorites being that of all the known ways Shakespeare spelled his name, there is no known evidence of his ever having spelled it "Shakespeare."


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