NORMAL — As an English professor at the University of Iowa, Adam Hooks teaches a class dedicated to the workings of William Shakespeare, an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.
Every year, he gets the same question from at least one of the English majors in class.
“Somebody will tell me that they just want to learn how to write like Shakespeare,” he said Sunday, as part of a panel of experts at Milner Library at Illinois State University, celebrating Shakespeare. “The first time it happened, I laughed and just said that I didn’t think we were going to be able to accomplish that in one semester, and of course, we didn’t. You will not be able to read and write like Shakespeare, but you can learn to read and write like Shakespeare was taught to do.”
That can be done on the sixth floor of the library in what ISU assistant professor Tara Lyons calls the most secure place on Illinois State University’s campus. It is known as the Special Collections room where a handful of rare items, including books from Shakespeare’s time, are on display. Those items were featured Sunday, along with several other rare and fine books during a program that gave visitors a rare glimpse into Shakespeare’s world. About two dozen people attended Shakespearience, with the chance to see books that might have influenced Shakespeare or his peers.
Visitors were allowed to hold and touch the books — after a complete washing of the hands first, of course, Lyons said. They also had the chance to practice writing with a quill pen, using the alphabet that was used in Renaissance England.
Lyons and Hooks were joined by DePaul University’s Professor Megan Heffernan. All are considered experts on Shakespeare and share a mutual love for ancient books and literature.
“All of us…