Areas of Teaching and Research Expertise
Early Modern Studies:
Shakespeare and his contemporaries
Shakespeare and Chronology
History and Evolution of Drama
Early Modern Ireland
Medieval to Early Modern
Intellectual History and Literary Theory:
The Arts of Memory
Studies of transgression
Editing and Book History:
History of the Book
The acquisition of knowledge should never be about merely attaining a certain grade, but rather an exciting opportunity to engage with new ideas. It is my firm belief that the key practice of a good educator is to facilitate students in developing their own critical faculty. For students to maximise their potential they must be able to express themselves in a supportive professional environment. Students should never feel embarrassed or unduly cautious about offering an opinion. The nature of literary criticism is subjective, and it is important for students to understand how vital that subjectivity is for new ideas in the field. Engaging critically with literature invariably leads to conflicting opinions and I always communicate to students that this is a necessary conflict that allows original ideas to evolve.
It is important to accommodate the different learning styles of all students. To keep class-work stimulating, informative and engaging, I employ several different pedagogical techniques. These include visual aids (film-clips, photographs, maps, powerpoint presentations), small-group assignments and projects, class presentations, short composition exercises, dramatic re-enactments and readings, class trips, and artefact presentations. I also advocate the use of technology to complement class-work. See, for example, class blogs I operated during my time at Trinity College Dublin: http://romancetcd.blogspot.com/ and http://theatretutorial.blogspot.com/. In these online blogs, I included a section entitled ‘Questions of the week’ that directed students to some the central issues and themes found in the texts to be discussed the following week in class. Such practices enable students to engage with some of the pertinent critical issues prior to class and facilitates those students who take longer to formulate their ideas. It is very important to alleviate the frustrations of students with different learning styles and/or learning difficulties. If, in my opening class, an unresponsive and under-motivated group confronts me, I attempt team-building trust exercises. This may be as simple as asking students to name their favourite author or encouraging students to speak about why they chose to study English, or, more particularly, early modern literature. It has been my experience that students will only learn when they feel comfortable and are willing to commit to learning.
I consider it my responsibility as a teacher to share the passion I have for literature with my students. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. I believe there is nothing more rewarding for a teacher than motivating a group of students to want to learn. Therefore, I always attempt to bring the same energy and drive that I have in my research to my teaching practices. I often draw on my own experiences and knowledge of modern culture to enable students to grasp abstract ideas about early modern literary criticism. Whether this takes the form of a humorous anecdote, or through citing parallels between contemporary entertainment and the studied text, this teaching method provides for the student a memorable means of engaging with ideas. For students of drama, I challenge them to imagine themselves as playgoers on the first night of the play’s performance. I ask them what moments in the play would have struck them as significant and which scenes would have been emotionally moving.
I believe that people have an infinite curiosity about the world we live in and the past we have emerged from. However, this curiosity does not always produce proactive and hard-working learners. I believe that people need to be motivated to learn, and that the best possible motivational tool is to make people realise that they want to learn. When students are motivated, this energy must not be wasted, and they need to be facilitated in the learning process. When they are facilitated, they need to be directed to concepts and ideas that will help them on their pathway to knowledge. To enable students to maximize their potential, I aim to provide every motivation for students to want to learn, while communicating ideas in as clear (and exciting) a manner as possible. I want students to look forward to attending my class and to be excited about the literature and history of ideas I teach, but, most importantly, I want students to be fully aware of how they are developing their own critical voice through the process of classroom discussion and debate.