This page includes a sample lesson from my dramatic literature course. It demonstrates the kind of exercise I like to use to help students grasp content and encourage them to make thoughtful interpretive decisions.
“Translating” Old Texts
In 2021, after assessing a series of possible readings with my students, I settled on teaching Aphra Behn’s comedy The Rover. In addition to introducing students to a pioneering female playwright, the text also facilitated a rich conversation on the darker strains of misogyny undergirding the comedy and the way Behn subtly challenges patriarchal norms in her characterizations. After a brief introductory lecture and a student presentation on the text and context, I paired the students up and tasked them to “translate” a passage from the play into modern language. The idea was to help them process the Restoration-era language more effectively and encourage them to make sound interpretive decisions. The students had a blast—no wonder, considering how saucy their translations were!
Students have to complete a certain number of weekly writing assignments over the course of the semester, two of which are reflections. The highlights below come from the students’ mid-term reflections, which came just after The Rover assignment. I should also note that in their end-of-semester reviews, the students expressed some frustrations with The Rover, indicating that more of this kind of exercise would have helped them understand and appreciate the play better.
“I feel like the translation exercise for The Rover really helped me understand what was going on in the play . . . This exercise not only helped me understand what was happening in the scene, but it also helped me retain some of the information from the events.”Student Reflection
“One activity that I found helpful in class was the translation exercise for The Rover. I had a lot of fun working with my partner to try to turn this into a modern adaptation of the lines, but also found it easier to work with someone else, being able to bounce ideas off one another. The Rover was a difficult play to read with the language and characters masking their identities, so it was helpful to go through this slowly and break it all down.”Student Reflection