Graduate Course Description

350:540 - Shakespeare in the Moment

Course No:  350:540
Index # - 15986
Distribution Requirement:  A2
Monday - 1:10 p.m. 
MU 207

Shakespeare in the Moment

Emily Bartels

How can we situate Shakespearean drama within our cultural and critical moment? This course will examine a range of plays – Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Richard II, Richard III, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus, Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale – looking to these iconic texts as markers of a past that, for better or worse, has shaped our present.  We will zero in on the ways the plays address – or avoid – issues of racial and gendered identity, “law and order”, authoritarian governance, systemic social and political inequities that are particularly pertinent now, dictating whose lives (and lies) matter and whose don’t. We’ll consider the ways Shakespeare’s representational strategies define and defy structural “norms” in their construction of plot, genre, space, bodies, dialog, soliloquy, asides, and other theatrical and dramatic devices, going as far as we can to imagine how/whether these speak to us now as conventions. We’ll put the plays in conversation with narrative “sources” (Hakluyt, Holinshed, Plutarch, Cinthio, Fiorentino, Rich, Strachey and others) as a way of thinking about what counts for us and for Shakespeare’s contemporaries as “story” and “history.” And we’ll look at the ways current critics  and actors are presenting Shakespeare, and Shakespeare’s relevance, now.

As we work our way through these texts and issues, we will also devote a substantial part of the course to writing, focusing on the process as well as the product. Everyone will launch a paper project early on and will present parts-in-progress, regularly, across the term.  We’ll use these projects as a springboard for discussion both of Shakespeare and of effective writing practices, giving everyone an opportunity to develop not only a compelling scholarly vision but also a compelling scholarly voice.