English professor receives grant to ‘transform’ Shakespeare for high school

Hamlet YA novels.

English professor receives grant to ‘transform’ Shakespeare for high school

Dr. Jennifer Flaherty, associate professor of English, is part of a partnership that recently received more than $161,000 from the National Endowment of Humanities (NEH). The money will be used to create a summer program for high school teachers, focusing on diversity and adaptation of Shakespeare.

This prestigious award is highly competitive. Flaherty’s colleague, English Professor Dr. Bruce Gentry, obtained two past NEH grants for projects on Georgia College alumna and author Flannery O’Connor.

This is Flaherty’s 10th year at Georgia College. Her coursework includes the “GC2Y Underworlds and Afterlives” and “Shakespeare,” as well as upper-level and graduate Shakespearean courses like “Shakespeare and the Teenage Girl.” Flaherty also teaches “Jane Austen on Film,” and “Modern Drama: Female Playwrights, Renaissance Drama, and Milton.”

It’s her love of Shakespeare that led Flaherty to team up with Dr. Deborah Uman from Weber State University (WSU) in Ogden, Utah. They applied for the NEH Summer Institute grant, proposing to use adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies to teach his plays “with an emphasis on engagement and diversity.”

Dr. Costas Spirou, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, congratulated Flaherty for “this significant accomplishment.” Her team’s project, “Transforming Shakespeare's Tragedies: Adaptation, Education, and Diversity,” shows her “commitment to scholarship” and contributes to the university’s national advancement, he said.

Flaherty and Uman will design a three-week summer program for 28 high school English teachers nationwide. There’ll be three virtual meetings: one in June and two in August 2022, as well as a 2 ½-week stint on the WSU campus July 10-26.

Lessons will focus on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “Othello,” two plays commonly taught in high school classes. The Summer Institute will demonstrate “model approaches for using adaptations to help students make connections with key Shakespearean themes from identity and power to race and gender,” Flaherty said.

High school teachers will learn to transform Shakespearean tragedies into film, novels, video games, graphic novels and web series. Participants will go to a Shakespeare festival in Utah and hear from a group of “incredibly talented” guest lecturers, Flaherty said. The goal is to give teachers the tools to use adaptation “to engage students in comparative analysis.”

She plans to bring these insights into her classes at Georgia College, too.

“I’m so excited about this opportunity,” Flaherty said. “Georgia College has really emphasized the importance of transformative learning experiences and high-impact practices in my time here, so it means a lot to have the opportunity to share the lessons I've learned from Georgia College students, faculty, and staff with a group of high school teachers in the amazing setting of Utah."

Updated: 2021-08-25
Cindy Odonnell
cindy.odonnell@gcsu.edu
(478) 445-8668
English, Department of