Exploring teaching Shakespeare with fan fiction

Evans, Mathew, M.A.
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Although students are exposed to the works of Shakespeare extensively from 9th -12th grade and sometimes at the postsecondary level, teachers are pressed to make the literature relevant and interesting for their classes. Fan fiction, which are stories written by amateurs out of a strong feeling of admiration and appreciation for an existing work, present numerous avenues to engage students with classic literature. I developed a fan fiction website called the Stratford Tattler which reimagines Shakespeare’s characters and world as if they were modern day celebrities which the website covers like an online tabloid. While I wrote fan fiction articles and developed the website, I received feedback, which in turn formed an iterative design. Three university Shakespeare scholars, two high school English teachers, and one legal expert on copyright provided the bulk of the feedback and advice. Over six months, I incorporated their suggestions as the project evolved from trying to build a participatory community to developing a stand-alone learning environment which teachers could readily incorporate in their classroom. The final result includes a website with teacher resources, namely a teacher’s guide with recommendations and lesson plans directed at high school English teachers, along with a model article of fan fiction that stays true to Shakespeare’s original text, a quality that most of the aforementioned experts who participated in the project found necessary for fan fiction to be educational. The teacher’s guide also includes guidelines for avoiding copyright infringement when repurposing existing digital images. Along with these teacher resources, the insights of my participants and my experience writing fan fiction as related in this report hopefully provide a first step toward high school English teachers being create their own fan fiction website and engage students with classic literature.