Lecturer in Extension, Harvard University
Why I Teach at Harvard Extension School
I grew up in Kansas very far from the world of academia. I wasn’t a great student in high school and started out at a community college. I love that the Extension School provides access to higher education for folks who may not have been given clear pathways into that world or may not initially see themselves in it.
The range of life experiences and perspectives in our classes—students from around the world and at different ages and stages of life—activates a quality of conversation that you really can’t get anywhere else.
Shakespeare provides an amazing opportunity to bridge past and present when thinking about big ethical questions—his plays are deeply informed by ancient art, culture, and thought but they’re also very alive today around the world in new performances and adaptations.
Check out Dr. Wilson’s guest appearance on the Folger Library’s Shakespeare Lightning Round on Instagram.
I like tracing these centuries-long intellectual debates and conversations to see how different people with different circumstances, values, and commitments can interpret the same story in very different ways.
Academic Writing Advice for Students
Writing is easy when you’ve got something to say. The hard part is building an idea that’s worth writing a paper about. That’s where you should spend your time and energy.
Embrace your perspective—the worldview you bring to your writing that’s informed by your experiences and values. You have hard-won expertise and authority to speak from that perspective, which allows you to shift from someone trying to convince a reader to believe something to someone with knowledge that their reader may not have and desperately needs.
Connecting with Students
In our Fundamentals of Grammar course, we do a series of assignments called “Writing You Can Use.”
The stories that grow from that assignment are amazing—from emails to long-lost friends that rekindled relationships to successful job applications to published opinion articles in local newspapers to the letter a student sent (from her new typewriter) to Tom Hanks (who is apparently a typewriter enthusiast) that he responded to (from his typewriter).
More About Jeffrey Wilson
Jeffrey R. Wilson is a Shakespeare scholar at Harvard University. He is the author of three books: Richard III’s Bodies from Medieval England to Modernity: Shakespeare and Disability History (2022), Shakespeare and Game of Thrones (2021), and Shakespeare and Trump (2020). As an Instructional Design Lead in the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning, he creates courses and events for Harvard Online. He holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Irvine.
Wilson’s research on Shakespeare and modernity has appeared in journals such as Modern Language Quarterly, Genre, College Literature, Shakespeare, English Language Notes, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, Law and the Humanities, Disability Studies Quarterly, Early Modern Literary Studies, Mosaic, and Crime, Media, Culture.
His work has been featured on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, New York Times, Salon, JSTOR Daily, Zocalo Public Square, Academe, CounterPunch, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Harvard Gazette.
He has been a guest on series such as the Folger Library’s Shakespeare Unlimited, Shakespeare Hour LIVE, Shakespeare for All, The State of Shakespeare, and Marvel Movie Minute.