Xavier Magazine

Extra Credit: Kara Northway

Kara Northway grew up in Topeka, Kan., and did her undergraduate work in Oregon. She then returned to her native state to study Shakespeare with the well-known scholar David Bergeron at the University of Kansas before arriving at Xavier this fall to teach two classes on Shakespeare and one on rhetoric. Her approach to the Bard’s work focuses not only on historical context and his use of language but on the elements of faith in his writing as well.

Kara Northway Assistant professor of English

How did you arrive at the idea of incorporating faith into your classes?
A national survey of college students showed they don’t feel they have enough opportunities to examine how what they study intersects with what they believe. So my idea of incorporating faith into class discussions emerges from their curiosity about it. Last week, one student suggested that because Shakespeare used a lot of groups of three in a play, he might have been Catholic. That happens to be a topic that’s currently being debated by scholars of Shakespeare.

How does faith fit into Shakespeare’s work?
Shakespeare often presents us with a world full of uncertainties and suggests faith offers one way to bear this. For example, he ends “The Winter’s Tale” with a miracle, telling us, “It is required/You do awake your faith.” This forces us to consider our faith in love, in God and in art.

How do students respond?
Some students at the University of Kansas told me that discussing how literature affects your beliefs is taboo, but I think it is impossible to read literature without examining our own values. I ask my students, “Why are you an English major?” “How will it make the world a better place?” “What value does reading literature have?” What I like about Xavier students is they are open-minded to different approaches to literature and to considering how our beliefs and actions affect others.

Reed College, Bachelor of Arts in English, 1994
University of Kansas, Master of Arts in English, 2000
University of Kansas, Doctorate in English with an emphasis on Renaissance literature, 2004

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