Brief Description of Course: For over three hundred years, Shakespeare has been at the center of the literary canon and of literary studies. His works are simultaneously in a category by themselves—exemplars of literary greatness—and representative of the possibilities and power of literature in general. In this course we will both examine his singular literary achievements in and for themselves, and develop a method of close reading that can be used to appreciate and analyze literature of all kinds. We will read a representative survey of Shakespeare’s works, map out an overview of his play-writing career, and situate him in relation to the social, political, and (especially) theatrical world of his time. Some questions we will consider, among others, are: How does Shakespeare’s poetic language work? What are the defining characteristics of a “Shakespeare play”? In what ways is a “Shakespeare play” different from, and in what ways is it similar to, other plays being written around the same time? How did the subject matter and style of Shakespeare’s plays evolve over the course of his career? What are the different images of Shakespeare created by literary criticism over the past three centuries and how, if at all, can these be reconciled with the “real,” historical Shakespeare?
Required Reading: Twelve to fifteen plays, most likely including The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, Richard II, 1 Henry IV, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, All’s Well that Ends Well, Othello, Macbeth, and The Winter’s Tale.
First Three Authors/Texts: Shakespeare: TBA.
Method of Evaluation: Three short writing exercises; two essays; two term tests; participation in tutorial.