In the Classroom: European Literature

Barbara Buckley’s European Literature class transforms the classroom into a stage.
It’s difficult to make an English class into a hands-on experience, but in Barbara Buckley’s European Literature class, the classroom becomes a stage. The students are currently working their way through Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, but rather than limiting their reading to that night’s homework, the class makes the story real by bringing Chekov’s words to life in the classroom.

“The Cherry Orchard is a play,” says Barbara, “so it’s pretty much dialogue that dictates our understanding of what’s going on, what’s going to happen, who these people are, what their relationships are. So the students have to be very careful in their reading, paying close attention to the nuances of word choice. There’s a lot of sarcasm in the book, and they often don’t pick that up in their silent reading, so we just read a good chunk of Act II in class, and we’ll continue to read it in class next week.”

The group readings encourage students to connect with the characters and the drama of the piece, putting on the voices of Chekov’s most famous characters and find relevance, meaning, and reality in the play through the medium of performance.

When talking about the themes of the class, Barbara says, “We just finished reading Candide and we’re looking at the way people interact in different points in history through the literature that we’re reading. The nice thing about reading The Cherry Orchard right after Candide is that the last line in Candide is something like, “After all, we must cultivate our garden.” And the conclusion that most of the students come to after reading that book is that we can talk about things all day long, but it’s what you do that matters.”

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