A Shakespearian twist

Jul 22, 2008

Dr. David Golz of Kettering University has had two careers during his professional academic life: a professor of Geology and now in a twist that reminds one of William Shakespeare, an assistant professor of Humanities in Kettering's Department of Liberal Studies.

“To be or not to be: that is the question:”
                                                - Hamlet

Ah, Shakespeare. Poet, dramatist, actor. For those who enjoy explicating his work, the question Hamlet poses to himself in Act 3, following the death of his father, is one that will forever foreshadow how readers and viewers perceive Hamlet’s character.

The universal quality of his dilemma—whether or not to end his life instead of going through and suffering the perplexities of his existence—is something many have long debated about their own lives.

But that’s just one possible way to interpret this line in the play. Dr. David Golz, assistant professor of Humanities at Kettering University and a self-proclaimed Shakespeare lover, once faced a similarly vexing question in relation to his career in science and his hobby of studying the work of Shakespeare. 

For many years, Golz taught Geology at several colleges and since 1985 was a full professor of Geology at California State University—Sacramento. Prior to that, he was a paleontologist and curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. But throughout his career, he has been an avid reader, particularly of Shakespeare’s work, and “had a desire to pursue my hobby on a professional, career level,” he explained.  

During his summers off from teaching, he found himself reading more and more Shakespeare and other Renaissance literature. Eventually, his love of this activity turned from a hobby into something more meaningful: in 1993, he left his teaching post and enrolled in the master’s program in English at Chico State University to pursue an advanced degree in literature. “I always had a great interest in literature and language, and read many biographies of writers and books of literary criticism,” he explained.

After completing his master’s of art degree at Chico State, he pursued his Ph.D. in English with a specialization in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Nevada-Reno. He earned his doctorate in 2002 and in 2004 took a position at Kettering teaching HUMM 201: Introduction to Humanities, LIT 379: The Plays of Shakespeare and LIT 372: Masterpieces of Literature.

Part of the reason he came to teach at Kettering includes “the small class sizes, interesting courses and the opportunity to design new courses of study,” he said. “I’m also impressed with my colleagues in the department. They are dedicated teachers and scholars and just good people,” he added.

Born in Michigan, Golz moved with his family when he was just a baby to Aurora, Ill.He has, however, spent most of his adult life in California and has an adult son who resides in southern California.

In the past few years, the journal Notes and Queries (Oxford Journals of Oxford University Press, http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/notesj/about.html), a scholarly publication devoted principally to English language and literature, lexicography, history, and scholarly antiquarianism, published two of his articles: “The Four Books of Doctor Faustus” in December 2006, one of the most highly read pieces published online, and “The Winter’s Tale: Parodic Wordplay in The Play and Its Title” June 2008. The latter work deals with a subject Golz finds most intriguing in Shakespeare: the role of wordplay on the stage and how it impacts interpretation.  

“Shakespeare is really quite adept at using wordplay for specific effect. He requires readers and playgoers to carefully consider the language he uses, the nuances and cultural and societal references he makes,” Golz said.

“Every play, for example, has a cluster of important words that resonate with the theme of the work and often the words are repeated throughout the piece. Unraveling the mystery of that wordplay and how it contributes to other aspects of the work is what I find most compelling,” he added.

His current Shakespearian research focuses on the use of the word diamond for a female viewed as a treasure that needs to be protected and stored away. During Shakespeare’s day, this analogy was a widespread cultural habit expressed in plays, poems and general discourse.

And after a sort of Shakespearian twist in careers that brought him to Kettering, Golz wouldn’t change a thing.   

“Although we do not have students majoring in Literature, those who take my courses are very bright and many of them do become excited with the work,” he said.

Written by Gary Erwin