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ND holds first Shakespeare Sonnet Fest

Sara Felsenstein | Thursday, February 11, 2010

Students, faculty and staff read aloud each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets Wednesday at the first Notre Dame Sonnet Fest in the Great Hall of O’Shaughnessy.

Students passed through the Great Hall, stopping to grab a cookie, a cup of hot apple cider and listen to a sonnet or two.

Maryam Zomorodian, a Ph.D. candidate in English, came up with the idea for the Sonnet Fest last fall. 

“I thought it would be a good opportunity [for us to] bring together faculty, staff and students over poetry,” Zomorodian said.

Eighty-five total students, faculty and staff signed up to read a sonnet. About half of the readers were students and the remainder were faculty and staff. The sonnets were read continuously from 11 a.m. until around 3 p.m.

“Listening to a bulk of Shakespeare’s sonnets, poems or plays allows the listener time to become comfortable with the language and intention of each piece,” Scott Jackson, director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame and a coordinator of the Sonnet Fest, said. “The goal for those attending is to shed any stereotypes they may have about the modern relevance of Shakespeare’s words, and allow themselves to experience his works as they were originally intended — by lifting them off the page and into the air.”

Notable readers at the Sonnet Fest included University President Fr. John Jenkins, Provost Thomas Burish, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters John McGreevy, Notre Dame Chair of English, John Sitter and guest lecturer, Princeton University professor Caryl Emerson. 

McGreevy said he was one of the first to recite a sonnet.

“I read a sonnet in the morning,” he said. “[Many] different people were there from Arts and Letters. It was a lot of fun.”

Some participants were able to choose their favorite sonnet to read, but most were assigned certain sonnets depending on their schedules.

“Scheduling was tight,” Jackson said. “Some readers requested specific sonnets, and while I tried to facilitate those requests, in the end the schedule was dictated by the availability of each participant.”

Jackson said Sonnet Fest was the first mass reading that Shakespeare at Notre Dame has ever attempted. He said he hopes the event will spark interest in more public readings in the community.

“It is my hope that such a far-reaching event like this will create the possibility of future public readings of Shakespeare’s canon,” Jackson said. “The strong interest that we have received from the Notre Dame community demonstrates that we certainly have the interest to make something like that work.  It might not be the sonnets [in particular,] but we will endeavor to make any selection relevant to the community that supports us.”