Hostos Associate Professor of English Anne Rounds was recently awarded a CUNY William P. Kelly Fellowship for her scholarly project, “Accommodating Hamlet.” In her work, she proposes and explores how to present Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the classroom through the lens of disability studies and accommodation. 

Rounds explained her research inspirations this way: “‘Accommodating Hamlet,’ started from my department's curricular initiative called the Columbia Core, which brings canonical works into English 110 and English 111. Hamlet was one of those works, and we had heard a couple of seminars on Hamlet. The seminars piqued my interest and made me think about Hamlet as a depressive. First I thought, well, that's not a new observation— there've been many people sort of pseudo-diagnosing him, arguing that he has this, or he has that. But my interest was more in what would happen if I were to teach the play as a crisis of accommodation. It was this intersection between a literary interest in something that I saw in this play, and a pedagogical interest around mental illness and how we accommodate mental illness and disability in the classroom.”  

Rounds had long been familiar with the ADA statements in her syllabi and accommodation letters from the Accessibility Resource Center, but became newly interested in accommodation after seeing how Hamlet’s own family treats him in the play.  

Accommodation also factors into the “Great Books” curriculum at Hostos, since it aims to reshape and adapt the Columbia Core for Hostos’ unique campus culture—in other words, “to make it accessible,” as Rounds put it. 

Rounds’ research affirms the relevance and importance of the arts and humanities for the advancement of society. “Literature is filled with characters who present with all kinds of different things,” says Rounds. “Teaching the Odyssey, issues of PTSD have come up, or postpartum depression in Song of Solomon. Every single time mood disorders have been in my curriculum, people have been forthcoming and interested, and just willing to open up in a way that makes me think that we could do more of this. Maybe one endpoint of this project could be to team-teach a work like Hamlet with somebody from the counseling center,” says Rounds.  

She added, “Discussions of mental health in the classroom just reemphasize that there isn't this firm boundary, like, ‘Oh, this happens in literature, and then this happens in my life.’ This also suggests a blurred boundary between an academic/medical model of mental disability and an identity model of disability, which is one of the things I am looking into with this research proposal.”  

Rounds is one of six William P. Kelly Fellows selected for 2020-2021.