The Shakespeare CoLab is an interdisciplinary digital humanities project working to create a repository of fully-annotated Shakespeare texts on a digitized platform. Utilizing the Folger Shakespeare Library’s digital texts for content, we aim to expand the accessibility of Shakespeare online by providing a resource of digital texts that include explanatory notes generated entirely from original student scholarship. Our mission is to bring Digital Shakespeare and the Digital Renaissance into scholarship, pedagogy, and the public sphere.
In 2016 in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library circulated one of the original copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio around all 50 states, finding a temporary residence at the University of Colorado Boulder as it journeyed west. The Folio’s arrival generated tremendous excitement around Shakespeare Studies in the Boulder community, and was hosted by a cross-disciplinary team at CU Boulder with representatives from the departments of English, Theater and Dance, Special Collections, and the CU Art Museum. Through an array of educational programming such as museum displays, library talks, and an English Department sonnet celebration, the text of the First Folio was made accessible to the public in an unprecedented way.
Harnessing the energy from the First Folio’s appearance in Boulder, Rachael Deagman, Katherine Eggert, and Teresa Nugent applied for and received a $6000 grant from the Folger Shakespeare Library to launch a project that would propel Shakespeare scholarship and accessibility across the University and into the digital age. The Shakespeare CoLab was born in the Summer of 2016.
Digital Shakespeare and Renaissance in Scholarship
The Shakespeare CoLab will be a version of the Folger digital texts that include explanatory notes in the form of hyperlink annotations, generated entirely from original undergraduate student scholarship. While Shakespeare’s texts are widely available in professionally-annotated digital and print editions, there is currently no repository for digital texts of Shakespeare that include explanatory notes. As scholars and educators of Shakespeare, we believe annotation is not only a necessary pedagogical tool for comprehension and textual engagement, but a crucial scholarly technique all serious students should learn to use and employ.
The Shakespeare CoLab structurally embodies an academic approach emphasizing collaboration throughout all levels of the university, modeled after Duke University’s “Vertical Integration” Program. The Shakespeare CoLab thus utilizes the unique perspectives and skill sets of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates across disciplines in STEM and the Humanities. Faculty members provide mentorship and uphold standards of excellence, graduate students develop content and build the digital structure of the website, and undergraduates comprise the primary body of ‘scholars’ who will be responsible for generating textual annotations and expanding the digital platform.
Digital Shakespeare and Renaissance in Pedagogy
The CoLab’s Pedagogy Team has designed a pedagogical model that trains students to create and curate hyperlink content for explanatory notes in a variety of media, including textual etymology, image, audio, and video. This model is currently applied in undergraduate Shakespeare classes at CU Boulder, and is predicated upon a scale of ordered thinking through assignments that build towards micro and macro goals. The Shakespeare CoLab’s pedagogical model integrates students from a wide range of academic disciplines, and will reach over 600 undergraduates each year.
The Pedagogy Team’s assignments draw on traditional learning objectives and methodologies of English courses, working towards the larger goal of generating scholarly content to enrich the digital texts of Shakespeare. Through coursework designed to direct students to utilize digital research tools such as the Oxford English Dictionary, Early English Books Online, and the Dictionary of Literary Biography, students have the opportunity to contribute explanatory notes to an authenticated scholarly resource while learning more broadly how to work as collaborative digital scholars of English.
After completing any of the various annotation assignments, students are invited to submit their annotations for publication on the CoLab website. This will expose students to the peer-review process, and ultimately provide a platform for their scholarship to be published by a credible academic resource.
Digital Shakespeare and Renaissance in the Public Sphere
One of the main tenets driving the mission of the Shakespeare CoLab is accessibility. The CoLab hopes to become a resource for all practitioners of Shakespeare, including actors, directors, audience members, dramaturgs, students, teachers, translators, editors, publishers, and scholars. To accomplish this goal, the CoLab is committed to a methodology that constantly integrates communities, students, and scholars of Shakespeare from around the world.
A tangible way in which the CoLab intends to interact with the public sphere in the Boulder community is through collaboration with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Applied Shakespeare Graduate Certificate at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival has produced professional productions of Shakespeare’s plays in the heart of Boulder since 1958, and connects with a diverse population of artists and audience members each season. The Applied Shakespeare Graduate Certificate offers non-degree seeking students and teachers the chance to interact with Shakespeare’s texts in theory and in performance through a semester-long online course, followed by a summer intensive that occurs concomitantly with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
By cultivating an active integration of theater praxis in textual scholarship, the Shakespeare CoLab works to reflect the ways in which Shakespeare’s texts are approached and practiced today. Indeed, the CoLab’s mission is in its very name: a co-operative experimental humanities lab generating a collaborative whole much greater than the sum of its parts.