Hip-Hop Hamlet: Hybrid Interpretive Discourse in a Suburban High School English Class

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Joanna L. Anglin
Peter Smagorinsky


This study investigates the collaborative composing processes of a group of five high school seniors who constructed interpretations of each of the five acts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet through the medium of spoken word performances. The group composing processes were analyzed to identify how the students drew on conventions from the spoken word tradition to phrase and perform their interpretations. Findings indicate that across the five spoken word performances, the retelling of the Hamlet narrative involved a set of decisions that were both constrained and afforded by the rap medium. The students’ discussion of how to rewrite the story in the condensed poetic form of a rap required them to clarify events from Shakespeare’s version and both summarize them and interpret them both in their discussion and in their own text. Their interpretive work involved the incorporation of a variety of rap and other pop culture conventions such that their deliberation regarding word choice and accompanying performative elements necessitated careful consideration of the meaning that they found in Shakespeare’s version of the story, itself an adaptation from extant cultural narratives. The study concludes with a consideration of their spoken word interpretations as comprising a hybrid discourse that enabled exploratory interpretive talk that contributed to their understanding of the drama through the collaborative composition of their own representational text.

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How to Cite
Anglin, J. L., & Smagorinsky, P. (2014). Hip-Hop Hamlet: Hybrid Interpretive Discourse in a Suburban High School English Class. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 2. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2014.73
Author Biographies

Joanna L. Anglin, Rockdale Career Academy

Joanna L. Anglin is an English teacher (Rockdale Career Academy) and administrator in Rockdale County, Georgia, and a doctoral candidate in English Education at The University of Georgia. In 2011 she was awarded the Georgia Council of Teachers of English State Teacher of the Year and has been chosen as a STAR teacher three times in the past decade, an award in which the student at each high school in Georgia with the highest SAT score is named the STAR student, and  he or she then chooses the teacher who was most influential to him or her. She has also been chosen as an Honor Teacher several times, awarded when each student who is in the top 20 of his or her grade gets to choose a teacher to “honor” at Honor’s Night. In 2007, she was named the Rockdale County Technology Integrating Teacher of the Year. Anglin earned an Ed.S. from Piedmont College and her Master of Teaching and bachelor’s degrees  from Georgia College and State University  and is also certified to teach gifted students and AP English.

Peter Smagorinsky, The University of Georgia

Distinguished Research Professor of English Education

Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at The University of
Georgia. He got his bachelor’s degree at Kenyon College (1974) and taught high school English in the
Chicago area from 1976-1990 while earning his M.A.T (1977) and Ph.D. (1989) from the University of
Chicago. His recent book, Vygotsky and literacy research: A methodological framework (2011, Sense)
won the 2013 National Council of Teachers of English David H. Russell Research Award for
Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English and the 2014 Steve Witte Award from the Special
Interest Group in Writing and Literacies of the American Educational Research Association. His newest
book, the coedited (with Valerie Kinloch) volume from Information Age Publishing, Service-Learning in
Literacy Education: Possibilities for Teaching and Learning, won the 2014 University of Georgia Service-
Learning Research Excellence Award. In 2014, Corwin will publish his edited volume, Teaching dilemmas
and solutions in content-area literacy, grades 6-12. Contact him at smago@uga.edu.