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Saylor.org Student Diary: Doing Things My Way

This week, Sarah makes some interesting holiday-related discoveries thanks to Saylor.org's Shakespeare class. Additionally, further insight is gained into the pros and cons of being an online student in a self-guided class.

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Save it for the Twelfth Day of Christmas

As the month of December comes to a close, I'm moving along through the rest of the comedy unit in Saylor.org's English 401: Shakespeare course. Having finished All's Well that Ends Well, I was ready to move on to the next major assignment in the unit, which was to read Shakepeare's Twelfth Night. But I decided, with perhaps justifiable reason, to skip ahead and come back to that play later.

I wanted to leave Twelfth Night for a more seasonally appropriate time - as I learned in pursuing independent research about the play, Twelfth Night is actually a holiday that's celebrated as part of the Twelve Days of Christmas. See, there was a time when the Twelve Days of Christmas were more than an annoying holiday carol. In Elizabethan England, the celebration of Christmas extended beyond the one day, with Twelfth Night being the twelfth and final day of the holiday celebration. It was considered the last day on which it was appropriate to leave your Christmas decorations up, and was generally cause for celebration as a culmination to the holiday season.

william shakespeare midsummer night

A Less-Seasonal Alternative

So I decided to read A Midsummer Nights Dream, which was to be the last play in the unit, before Twelfth Night. I can do that with no consequence in this class - something refreshing after years of the rigidity of a hard-and-fast syllabus. It's nice to be able to do things on my own terms. As for the play itself, I found it quite enjoyable and easy to read. My lack of difficulty in reading the text is probably down to the fact that I'm well familiar with the story in the play, and didn't need to perfectly understand every line of dialogue in order to follow the action.

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Getting Into a Comfortable Pattern

I suppose in that sense I'm relaxing into the format of this class. I still hold to parts of my former discomfort - I never really feel that I've understood literature until I've had the opportunity to discuss it at length and in-depth with people whose opinions and knowledge I respect. I want to make sure I'm not making mistakes like inventing nuance and misunderstanding character motivation, and these are problems that can easily be detected in conversation with other students. So that aspect is still missing, as much as I'm getting into the swing of taking advantage of the freedom afforded by the online format. This all ultimately makes me feel that this class is more recreational than truly academic, but I think that's just fine. I am, after all, enjoying myself.

Stay tuned for the coming weeks as I finish up with the comedy unit and move on to Unit 3: Tragedies. Also, check out what Saylor.org had to say about my coverage of their classes on their blog. If you haven't been to the Saylor.org site recently, you should give it a look. The website redesign looks great!

Want to read more about Sarah's experience as an online student? Check out last week's diary!

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