Great Books Discussion: WCC Professor Leads Discussions on Shakespeare

WCC’s Great Books Forum creates an opportunity for book connoisseurs to meet on a monthly basis to discuss and interpret classic literature. The Forum is open to students, faculty, staff and the general public as well.

This spring, the forum has chosen the theme Colonial Shakespeare as the focus of discussion. Literature buffs will enjoy reading, or re-reading Shakespeare’s classics, followed by group discussions with multimedia presentations.

On March 31, the Spring series began with a discussion on Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Led by Professor Elizabeth Gaffney, the group discussed their interpretations of the book. The conversation was guided by a list of ten conversational questions that led to the sharing of thoughts and ideas.

The evening delved into the Shakespeare work with commentary on several complex themes, such as, anti-semitism, loyalty, love, community, and justice. The group also discussed the concept of “usury,” which is the act of lending money at a very high rate of interest, and how it plays a role in “The Merchant of Venice,” as well as in present day life.

The dialogue highlighted an issue that has been going on for centuries. From illegal lending through organized crime to large financial institutions, lending money at extremely high interest rates has plagued citizens around the world with insurmountable debt since the inception of currency.

The concept of Shakespeare on anti-semitism is a topic that has been debated for many years, and the Great Books Forum took it on as well. “The Merchant of Venice” is a Shakespeare work that is always at the center of this deliberation.

The Forum augmented their discussion with the book “Shakespeare and the Jews”, written by Columbia University English Professor James Shapiro, published in 1992. The book talks about how Jews and their culture were viewed in Elizabethan England, and how forms of anti-semitism made it’s way into various types of art, music and literature.

The Great Books Forum provided a cultural evening along with laughs, food and drinks, accommodating an opportunity to meet like minded individuals where your individual thoughts are encouraged and beliefs are tolerated.

The next meeting in the Colonial Shakespeare series will be held on April 28 at the Davis auditorium in the Gateway Center, and the book of discussion will be The Tempest.

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