Student shares literature through YouTube

Aliesha Jones Sep 21, 2008

Carnegie Mellon students could soon be YouTube stars.

Through the Posner Poetry and Prose Project (p4), sophomore political science major Jessica Dickinson Goodman plans to record student and faculty readings of Huckleberry Finn and various sonnets of Shakespeare and put them on YouTube. Auditions for the project are ongoing.

The Posner Poetry and Prose Project will be Goodman’s exhibit in the Posner Center.

As an intern at the Posner Center on campus, she has become familiar with the exhibits and antiques on display and realizes how hers will fit in.

The Posner Center was created as a tribute to Henry Posner, Sr.’s collection of “rare and beautiful books,” Goodman said. The collection is held in the vault of the Posner Center and periodically brought out for display in the glass showcases. Most of the collection has also been digitized and is widely available on the Posner Center website.

This free, public access and digitalization is the same mission for p4 — to “provide everyone with great literature,” Goodman said.

“If you can get an Internet connection, then you can listen to [the sonnets and Huck Finn],” she said.

In addition to easily reaching a broad audience, Goodman also hopes to make her production available as a teaching aid.

“Having a best friend with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder], I’ve seen that it can be a big task to read. Also my brother has dyslexia, so for people with learning disabilities, I feel that if you hear and listen to it [Shakespeare] or watch someone read it you can digest it,” Goodman said.

She plans to have her project displayed and sent to local parochial schools as a classroom resource.Goodman’s desire to share literature comes from her love for it, which came at an early age.

When Goodman was growing up, her mother was part of a Shakespearean club, so women were constantly in her home, filling her house with the words of Shakespeare. At school, her classes were not traditionally focused on grades, homework, and tests; students would “read stories to each other,” Goodman said, reinforcing her exposure to literature.

Having fallen in love with the comedic words of Shakespeare, she wanted to make his work available to absolutely anyone. It is with p4 that Goodman hopes to spread her same joy for literature with others.

“Shakespeare is funny and I think that listening to sonnets is fun. It’s hilarious,” Goodman said before she recapped her favorite sonnet, the story of a woman chasing around a chicken with a toddler hanging from her neck.

“It’s a simile for Shakespeare and his lover. You see, the woman is his lover who is chasing the chicken, some dandy new love interest, and Shakespeare is the toddler vying for the woman’s attention,” Goodman said.

When asked about the Project, local students had good things to say about it.

“I think it’s a great idea actually,” said Eric Berryman, a sophomore drama major. “By putting her productions on YouTube, anyone, anywhere, at any time can reach works of great literature.”
Goodman noted the high level of support she has already gotten from students and the College of Fine Arts administration.

“The CFA lending program has been very supportive,” Goodman said as she displayed the video camera she recently borrowed.

Goodman approached people in the School of Drama as well as the School of Music to participate in the program, but students and faculty from all schools are invited to audition.

Goodman auditions readers for the quality of their performance. As a vocal performance minor, she is focused mainly on the sound of the reader’s voice and how well they portray each character.

Performers will be recorded in a sound booth in the College of Fine Arts and will be videotaped as well for YouTube footage. The videos posted online may or may not show video footage of the readers.

On her project website (http://pfour.wordpress.com/), Goodman has posted her method of approaching the project as well as the steps she has taken in case anyone would want to follow in her footsteps and create something of the same nature.

For more information, contact jdickins@.