In this paper I analysed a few key narrative retellings of The Merchant of Venice for the young, from Lamb's Tales (1807) to contemporary YA novels based on the play, concentrating on the (linguistic, structural, cultural etc.) solutions authors have chosen to respond to the problematic elements of the play - especially the issue of discrimination and the treatment of Otherness. I also talked about my own adaptation/translation of the Merchant, and the way I have tried to take on the challenges that it presents. With mixed results of course!
This talk introduced the notion of Graded Readers as one kind of translations of The Merchant of Venice for young English language learners across the globe. These simplified versions of the play face a twofold challenge: they are not only trying to speak to a younger audience and to make the play accessible to an age group that does perhaps not naturally gravitate towards Elizabethan drama but in addition they need to make the story comprehensible to an audience that is also still in the process of learning Modern English. We took a look at several examples of The Merchant of Venice Graded Readers to identify the strategies at work and to see how they can inform our own ‘translation work’ in the Shakespeare classroom.
In this writing workshop we will explore, through creative practice, ways of engaging children and young people in The Merchant of Venice. Participants will work in small groups and individually to mine their memories of childhood and reflect on the lives of any contemporary children they work with. We will discover what connections children already have with the play and how these connections can act as ‘ways in’ to study of the play.
In this hands-on translation workshop, participants took Shylock’s famous ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ speech and created their own twenty-first century translation of it. We began by thinking about issues such as what translation is, where the line is between translation and adaptation, and how translation involves negotiating both ‘form’ and ‘content’ and the complex relationship between these two elements. We then read Shylock’s speech with its translation in mind. Finally, in groups, participants were challenged to create a new translation/version/adaptation of the speech for a number of contemporary scenarios, the parameters of which will be specified in the workshop. We concluded by thinking about the advantages and disadvantages, including the potential ethical problems, of taking this text out of its original context.
From 2014-16 Preti Taneja undertook first hand research into translations, adaptations and appropriations of Shakespeare, which were taking place in contemporary conflict and recent postconflict zones. The two years coincided with a major period of Shakespeare commemoration in the UK - from his 450th birthday to the 400th anniversary of his death. Interest in how refugee Shakespeare took shape on the ground became fascination with how it was received locally and worldwide, particularly in the UK. She presented some of the research she gathered including interviews with young Syrian refugees in Jordan, and via Skype from Syria, alongside some reflections on the power of refugee Shakespeare, and the limitations it faces to reach a global audience.
'Workshopping those "hard words" for children' – Matt Roberts
This practical workshop focused on how to approach, animate and analyse specific soliloquies, duologues and group scenes from The Merchant of Venice. A variety of a pedagogical pathways were explored to achieve different outcomes, e.g. the opportunity to explore the social and spiritual dimensions of a student's experience alongside the written examination demands of specific assessment criteria.
Leila Rasheed is a children's author published primarily in the UK and USA. She teaches Writing for Children and Young People on the University of Warwick's MA in Writing, and leads Megaphone, a Arts Council-funded development scheme for BAME writers of children's and YA fiction. Further information is at www.leilarasheed.com and www.megaphonewrite.com .
Matthew Roberts is Head of Drama and a Lead Teacher at JCoSS. His passion is the transformative power of the arts in an educational context. Most recently his students were featured in The South Bank Show for Sky Arts which documented Benedict Cumberbatch's performance of Hamlet at the Barbican.
Preti Taneja is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow Warwick University, working on literature and human rights. She is an AHRC/ BBC New Generation thinker broadcasting mainly on postcolonial literature and culture, global Shakespeare, and contemporary fiction, particularly in translation. Her PhD is in Creative Writing, and her debut novel, WE THAT ARE YOUNG, a retelling of King Lear set in contemporary India, will be published by Galley Beggar Press in July 2017. Prior to becoming an academic, Preti worked for over a decade in human rights as a film maker and reporter for NGOs working on issues faced by people affected by conflict from Rwanda to Iraq.
Laura Tosi is Associate professor of English Literature at the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice. Her research spans the areas of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and children’s literature. Her latest monograph is on adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays for children: Raccontare Shakespeare ai bambini (2015).
Lisa Peter is the International Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. In her teaching at the Trust, Lisa particularly looks after international groups whose first language is any other than English, and she specialises in Shakespeare translations and the Shakespeare reception around the world. Lisa offers teacher training sessions for language teachers at the Trust and she regularly speaks at international conferences on the topic of teaching Shakespeare to language learners.
Chantal Wright is a literary translator and an associate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Warwick. She has translated some of Germany’s best-known contemporary children’s authors into English and has twice been shortlisted for the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation. Her translation of Milena Baisch’s Anton and Piranha is on the IBBY 2016 Honour List.