ENG487H1F - L0101

Advanced Studies Seminar: Discourse Analysis and Shakespeare's Language


Wednesday 2 pm - 4 pm


L. Magnusson

Brief Description of Course

“The life of Shakespeare’s plays is in the language.” This course brings together interdisciplinary tools from a broad-ranging field we can call “discourse analysis” to explore Shakespeare’s linguistic art. Most importantly, it concentrates on the way the dramatist’s sophisticated techniques and strategies for social dialogue effectively produce a rehearsal site or series of test cases to help you as literature students develop your own analytic and creative skills. This capstone seminar is calibrated to provide you with transferrable skills you can adapt to the productive close reading of almost any text or utterance, whether literary, cultural, or everyday interaction. We will consider how Shakespeare’s linguistic art draws on his humanist education in classical rhetoric, his acute observation of conversation at work in everyday social discourse, and his encounter with numerous forms of language variation, including the accelerating changes taking place in the constitution of early modern English itself. We will test out tools like speech acts, conversation analysis, politeness theory, digital text analysis, keywords and cultural semantics. We will bring them together with powerful ideas like Bakhtin’s dialogism and Bourdieu’s economics of linguistic exchange. We will also challenge ourselves to think innovatively about how fresh methods of language analysis can extend the reach of other current literary approaches, concerned, for example, with race, environment, gender, or cultural critique.

Required Reading(s)

Selected Shakespeare works, often scenes or episodes (shaped by your choices for research presentations); a selection of methodological readings.

First Three Authors/Texts

Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor 4.1; Othello 3.3; M.M. Bakhtin, from The Dialogic Imagination (1981), pp. 250-300; or try out Voyant Tools with the Shakespeare corpus.

Method of Evaluation

  • Try-out seminar (20%)
  • Seminar research project (including research presentation [20%] and paper [40%])
  • “Issue” sheets on weekly readings (10%)
  • Class participation (10%)