SCMLA 2011: Social Media and Shakespeare

“Social Media and Shakespeare”

Kris McAbee, Assistant Professor of English, University of Arkansas, Little Rock (


Jessica C. Murphy, Assistant Professor of Literary Studies, University of Texas at Dallas (

South Central Modern Language Association

27 October 2011


Assignment Documents:

Assignment Overview:

Character Analysis Paper Details:

Character Profile from Revenge Drama Class:

Other Items Mentioned:

“Alternatives to Ning” Document (Alec Couros):

READ Magazine and the Ophelia Project’s Much Ado about Nothing Facebook Production:

Presentation Abstract

Among the countless digital tools that invite use in the humanities classroom are numerous social networking platforms: students can share relevant links over Twitter, receive class announcements through Blackboard, or engage in discussion on Facebook. Each of these social networking facets enhances traditional teaching strategies by making them available outside of the classroom. However, the concept of digital pedagogy also suggests the rethinking of tool usage for particular pedagogical gains—which may involve using these tools against the grain. Toward this end, social networks can be used not simply as a way for students to inhabit the classroom in a digital continuation of the real-time environment, but, rather, students can use the writing, critical thinking, and performance aspects of social networks to inhabit texts themselves. This is particularly useful for studying early modern works of literature because it gives the students a sense of the networked nature of these texts. In this presentation, Kris McAbee (UALR) and Jessica C. Murphy (UT-Dallas) will discuss an assignment that they have developed and employed at their respective institutions, which uses a social network to allow students to perform the roles of characters in Shakespearean dramatic texts. Each student creates a social-network profile for a single character in an assigned play and then throughout the semester interacts with the other characters in the digital environment, basing that character’s “performance” on textual evidence. The pedagogical benefits of using this digital tool include lessons about character formation, the realization of close-reading skills necessary for such formation, and the implementation of new-media-supported performance. The latter holds significant advantages for drama-oriented literature classes in which students without theatrical training can nonetheless perform roles, while drawing on the performance inherent in the creation of an online persona. This assignment exposes connections across texts by keeping them all on the virtual table simultaneously, thus enabling teaching strategies that cannot be achieved in a real-time classroom environment. This presentation also surveys potential platforms for this assignment in the wake of recent developments in social media. For example,, the site used for the original assignment converted to a pay model in 2010, and academic users of Ning turned to other social media (including Twitter, Facebook, and Google initiatives) to crowdsource solutions. McAbee and Murphy, thus, engage the pedagogical benefit of social media use in the implementation—as well as the very formulation—of Renaissance drama assignments.


About Jessica C. Murphy

Associate Prof of Lit Studies at UT Dallas, Author of _Virtuous Necessity: Conduct Literature and the Making of the Virtuous Woman in Early Modern England_ (
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