by William Shakespeare
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
One of the blessings of writing a blog is the opportunity for connection with people in the world you would never have had the opportunity to cross paths otherwise. Such is how I have come to have a copy of Scott Newstock’s new book How to Think Like Shakespeare. Newstock is is a professor of English and founding director of Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College. Newstock is a follower of Fourteen Lines and graciously sent me an advance copy.
The entire premise of the book is simple; if we could understand how genius arises, deduce where the ability to reshape the world through new ideas gestates, could we be more successful in opening doors into the vast potential of our own minds? Could we reshape education to greater assist the learning of every student’s inner Shakespeare? Hundred’s of years have passed since Shakespeare laid down his pen and yet what do we really know about his creative process? All we have is the evidence of his genius. Isn’t that true of every great writer, innovator, architect, scientist and artist? How much do we really understand where and how inspiration is conjured? It does not come from logic, or a sequence of numbers and equations to be added up, even when the outcome may look somewhat rigid or mathematical as in the form of a sonnet. Great art and science and innovation comes from a place beyond reason to inform and inspire reason. And in that way there are no formulas for learning it, but there are interesting insights to be had to step back and we think about thinking.
Newstock’s book is fourteen chapters on the essence of thinking. It is a playful, quote filled romp into the mind of Shakespeare. It is also an indictment on the failure of outcome based education and a plea to students and educators everywhere to remember one thing; the purpose of education is to learn how to think, not just to learn facts and process. For facts become irrelevant nearly as fast as they are minted.
If you would like a quick primer on some of aspects of the book, check out how Newstock playfully uses the metaphors around sonnet structure to help us look at the world differently. I have provided a link to his recent article below. And if you are a teacher or student and looking for a fun read this summer, check out his new book. I will close with another genius, William Wordsworth, who laid down his own thoughts on how to think like a sonnet, in a sonnet. Enjoy.
How to think like a sonnet, or, fourteen ways of looking around a room
Nun’s Fret Not At Their Convent’s Narrow Room
by William Wordsworth
Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.