In this episode, I discuss why the podcast series was created and why everyone should listen to it. Check out http://www.womenandshakespeare.com for transcripts.
Creator: Dr Varsha Panjwani
Interviewer: Ms Apurva Kothari
Producer: Mr Davis Stephens
Artwork: Mr Wenqi Wan
Funded by NYU Global Faculty Fund Award
Hi, everyone. Welcome to our podcast, 'Women and Shakespeare'. I'm Apurva Kothari and I am studying International Relations here at New York University. Today I'm on the London campus, and I have the opportunity to interview the creator of this podcast series, Dr Varsha Panjwani. How are you doing?
Very well. And I'm excited to talk to you about this series.
So I would start straight up with asking, what were key motivations behind creating the podcast, 'Women and Shakespeare'.
So, as you know, my research and teaching is centred around Shakespeare and what I increasingly began noticing is that, despite the overwhelming number of women students and scholars in this field of study, a very small percentage of women scholars get cited in essays and presentations. Also, my female colleagues have found themselves that conferences with all-male keynote speakers many times. In theatre, I often hear about how women actors still have to really fight for their interpretations, because all the focus is on male characters, say Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and so on. In public discourse as well, I noticed how women are very rarely asked to be commentators on Shakespeare, and even when they're asked, the selection is really not diverse enough. This collective silence of women experts on Shakespeare was becoming really oppressive to me. So I wanted to create a platform where women scholars of Shakespeare could be heard loudly, clearly and proudly, which is why this series started.
Thank you so much for answering this. Moving to the question of editorial control. What kind of an editor are you? In other words, how unfiltered would these podcast episodes be?
Very good question and I'm glad you asked me this because I am editing these podcast episodes. But what I'm editing is just the umms and the false starts and actually some of the disasters. For instance, there was a leaf blower when we were recording Dona Croll's podcast who just wouldn't go away. And then when we were recording the podcast with Kathy Pogson, a curtain fell so that is going to be edited out. But that's about it because edits will not be made to change the meaning of what the guests are saying. And many-a-time the guests actually do not say what I want them to say...which is very inconvenient...and they don't interpret Shakespeare in the way that I do. Instead, they offer some really completely different or even opposing readings to mine. But definitely, these myriad and conflicting thoughts will not be altered in any way. My purpose in the interviews as well has been to clarify and ask and not offer my own analysis...Not too much anyway...So I'm not going to be a sneaky editor.
I think that's very good for our listeners to know that this podcast would be as unfiltered as it can be. Moving on to the question of listeners...for the larger body of listeners, particularly students, how do you think this podcast will be useful?
I'm going to be my classic teacher self and turn this question to you. You're a student. You tell me how you might use this podcast?
Oh, well, I have put myself in a mousetrap! But I think...I see 'Women' and 'Shakespeare' as two entities which simultaneously have an impact on each other. So that is particularly useful for me, as it makes me feel that Shakespeare is for me and people like me. Furthermore, I do feel that Shakespeare continues to hold substantial cultural capital, so it is important to know how women are mobilising Shakespeare to create more empowering cultures for women themselves...and women, not just in London or the U. K....but like across the world.
I think you're absolutely right because this podcast shows what Shakespeare can do for women. But it also emphasises what women contribute to Shakespeare studies and performance. So I hope that students will be able to appreciate both these aspects.
So it seems like students are at the centre. But are they the only people who would, in your opinion, listen to this podcast? Or can this podcast be relevant to the larger populace out there?
I think that this podcast is for anyone who's interested in Shakespeare. So that is what we had in mind when we were creating it. We have not used, for instance, obscure jargon so that a non-specialist can follow the conversation easily. This is also why the podcast is free, and I was very adamant that it would be free so that it is accessible not only to university going students, but to anyone who wants to know more about various facets of Shakespeare. In fact, the medium of podcast was also dictated by this desire to cater to a variety of people, because if you are a student or in academia, you may, at least theoretically, have access to a library and get time to read books. But not everyone can afford these pleasures. So a podcast, however, can be listened to while commuting, cooking, gardening, whatever, really. But having said this, I also think that established academics will find it useful due to the range of voices that have been consulted and the level of analysis that is offered by each guest.
Well, I see the clock, and it's almost time for a last question, and I know that we've already established that how this is a space for anyone and everyone who would like to be a part of the Shakespearean community. But I think we should establish: why should men listen to 'Women and Shakespeare'?
Actually, very bluntly, to learn about Shakespeare. I mean, I read books by and listen to my male students and colleagues in academia and theatre and film and beyond, because I value their scholarship and experience and expertise. But as I was explaining earlier, this compliment has really not been returned or returned, but in a very tokenistic way. So this podcast is not about excluding men from the Shakespeare dialogue, but rather it is about adding women's voices to this ongoing conversation. So, quite simply, they should listen because they might learn a thing or two!
Thank you so much for being a part of this conversation today and inaugurating 'Women and Shakespeare' podcast series and I sincerely do hope that listeners they all enjoy and learn a thing or two from the series.
Join us on the 23rd of April Shakespeare's Birthday which we will be celebrating by launching our first episode. Until then...keep shattering those glass ceilings!