Professor Jillanne Michell is taking her first sabbatical to study Shakespeare in England after 20 years teaching Shakespeare and other literature classes at UCC, including women’s literature, environmental literature, and various other introduction to literature courses.
Michell, who will be away from UCC all spring term, will travel with her husband who is a retired UCC English professor also passionate about Shakespeare. The pair will be traveling to London, Stratford and Oxford for three weeks during her time away from teaching. She plans on researching and seeing plays at the Globe Theatre and at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, as well as exploring other landmarks of London such as Bloomsbury.
“I’m most excited to get to experience watching plays in the reconstructed Globe Theatre and getting to see performances of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford,” Michell said. Her primary focus during the trip will be learning more about Renaissance England and Shakespeare’s London. She will research and review current Shakespeare scholars and scholars in the field of Shakespeare studies, as well as visiting important landmarks, museums, and libraries.
“I expect to learn a lot more about the production practices of an Elizabethan playhouse,” Michell said, “and I expect that seeing plays performed at the Globe Theatre will give me exciting new insights into Shakespeare’s work.” She will also research the history of inclusive casting practices and their development in both the United States and in England as well as film.
Inclusive casting refers to casting women or actors of color in roles that are traditionally reserved for while male actors. “I’m fascinated by the ways in which literature and drama foster the development of an appreciation of diversity and the perspectives and experiences of others, and the value of toleration,” Michell said.
Michell’s doctoral dissertation analyzed how literature, especially comic literature of the English Renaissance, encouraged tolerance for changing norms regarding both class and gender. Years prior to writing her dissertation, she started her college studies as a theater major, studying playwrights like Shakespeare. One chapter of her dissertation focuses on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The other chapters are about works of literature by contemporaries, or near-contemporaries, of Shakespeare.
“There is something magical about literature, particularly older literature, that drew me in,” Michell said. “The fact that, through writing, especially imaginative writing, we can have a connection to people long gone is still amazing to me.”
Michell was also drawn toward literature because she loved its cross-disciplinary nature, as well as being able to read wonderful, beautifully crafted stories and learn about the history of those times in a vivid and memorable way while getting insights into psychology, sociology, philosophy and art.
Michell’s father and mother were a strong support. “They always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and supported me in countless ways,” Michell said. Her mother, as well as excellent professors and writers Michell fell in love with, instilled a love of reading that still continues today. Some of those writers were John Donne, an early 17th century poet, and Aphra Behn, a late 17th century writer who was the first English woman to earn her living writing.
Michell went to UCC and graduated with an Associates in 1994. She then got her Bachelors in English from UO in 1996 and her Masters in 1998. In 2014, she completed her Ph.D. in English from UO. She decided to be a teacher because she had amazing teachers in her years at college. Ken Carloni was one of her science professors at UCC, and, she says, “He was so passionate about teaching. I wanted to teach something I’m passionate about.” Her background in theater also influenced her teaching. “When teaching, it is almost like a performance,” Michell said.
Prior to being a professor at UCC, she was an adjunct instructor at the college, as well as a part time graduate teacher at U of O for four years.
Michell will be back from her sabbatical by summer term of 2019 when she will teach Intro to Literature 105. The class attends five plays in Ashland, Oregon for the Oregon Shakespearian Festival. The class requires about an eight page paper at the end of the term, but will also include backstage passes to the plays that the class is watching.