This year is the 600th anniversary of the birth of Jeanne d'Arc.
One of my colleagues on campus is a Joan scholar who also teaches a kick-ass course in Joan. In this class, she covers the primary evidence of Joan's life (including the transcripts of her trial), her military campaigns, and finally the interpretation of Joan as a character and cultural touchstone. The fact is that over the last six hundred years there have been one hundred plus performance pieces with Joan as a central character: plays, operas, song cycles, ballets, and films. Artists who have written about Joan include Bertolt Brecht, George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, George Melies and Roberto Rosselini.
That means there is approximately one text for every six years.
The first one was written even before Joan was executed--during her lifetime, in other words. Some ofthe texts are biographical, some are fantastical, and some simply use Joan's life and legend as an influence.
Last semester, I proposed an interdisciplinary event celebrating Joan's birthday. My ideas were bigger than we had time to realize, but the final project will be great for my students, my colleague's students, and the Creative Writing students who are taking the class and can do a creative project instead of a research project. These are student poets and fiction writers in the English department.
What's the outcome?
My colleague has offered two days of class for this project. Students from Medieval Studies, Creative Writing, and Theatre will present original student texts in class. My students' plays will be readings, using the students of the class as actors. The poets and novelists will read their original work or excerpts of their original work. Bonnie will lead in with a discussion of Shaw's play, but her brilliant website offers excerpts from films and plays, as well as a complete listing of said performance pieces.
What does this mean?
An interdisciplinary celebration of student writing and performance. An outlet for students' creative work--based on research and primary documents. Production credits for student playwrights. Good for students, good for Joan, good for faculty.
Go, Team Joan!