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Four centuries on, Shakespeare still challenges us. How should we weigh the respective claims of our own era’s concerns–with matters of gender, sexuality, race, class, or materiality, for instance–against historicist attention to the cultural, political and theatrical circumstances in which his plays were actually written? And when it comes to realizing the text in dramatic performance, such challenges–and opportunities–multiply further. Critical fidelity to Shakespeare’s times, language and theatrical milieu prioritizes a historical authenticity that can be constraining or even sterilizing. At the other extreme, staging the plays with the primary aim of making them “speak to our times” risks revisionary absorption in our own interests. We will focus on six Shakespeare plays, from different genres and periods of his career: Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Proceeding with each from close reading of the text, we will attend to the demands and opportunities of both interpretation and performance, and assess a range of recent film and stage productions.
Format: seminar; This course will be remote, with occasional smaller tutorial-style sections. If pandemic conditions change significantly, I will move to in-person and/or hybrid meetings as warranted.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Three papers ranging from 4 to 7 pages; several short reading responses and regular discussion board postings; class participation.
A THEA course; a 100-level ENGL course; a score of 5 on the AP Literature exam or a 6 or 7 on the IB exam; or permission of instructor.
Theatre and English majors or prospective majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Three papers rising from 4 to 6+ pages; regular discussion board postings and several short response papers. Students will receive timely comments from the instructor on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement, and there will be opportunities for revision of submitted papers.
ENGL Literary Histories A