Caleen Jennings’ classes at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute are all about freeing oneself from the usual strictures of education, whether we’re finding physical ways to communicate the written word or lying on the floor in the dark scrawling barely connected words on a sheet of paper as both a vital part of the writing process and a way to access Othello.
We did the latter activity today. Jennings wrote a word – “cause” – on a large, white sheet of paper, and our job was to yell out word associations. She’d pick the first she heard, add it to the paper linked to the previous word, and we’d suggest associations for the new word. “Cause” led to “effect” led to “affect” (English teachers!) and so on until we got, in a dilatory way, to “air conditioning.”
Then it was back to “cause” again, with a new association. “Cause” led to “way” led to “curds” which led to “Saddam Hussein.” Eventually we got a word balloon on the paper that said “Harry Potter.” In the cacophony that followed, the loudest next association was “Twilight.” Even free association suffers from rivalry. But Jennings heard something else; she wrote down “toilet.”
Looking at the final word webs on the paper, to one who didn’t witness the process, it may have made a perverse sense how we got from “Potter” to “toilet,” but it must have been mystifying how the next word ended up being “sunrise.”
“Moonrise” would have made more sense.
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