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Spring 2014 Course Descriptions

English 3802  Shakespeare (2 Sections)

English 3802 Section 001       CRN 31627
Art and Ethics in Shakespeare    1100-1215 TR

When Hamlet exclaims, “The play’s the thing /wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” he stakes a claim for the moral value of art.  In this course, we will read some of Shakespeare’s darkest, most skeptical plays in which he questions the validity of moral value and its various sources. We will approach this question by coming to terms with the genres of comedy and tragedy and how Shakespeare used them. After we have developed an understanding of these two genres, we will examine plays that defy generic distinction: the romances, the so-called problem plays, and—to some degree—the histories. While many of these plays certainly incorporate aspects of comedy, much of their subject matter—ranging from vigilante justice, to courtship that approximates prostitution, to using magic to torture and entrap enemies—is no laughing matter.  We will consider the complex interplay between the comic and the tragic, why these intersections occur, and what they tell us about human nature, experience, and art. Over the course of the semester, we will examine how Shakespeare uses genre both to uphold and critique moral and social values and the reasons why these values often collapse by the end of many of his plays. Active participation,

2-3 papers, midterm, a final, and a sonnet reading are required.  (Group 3D)


English 3802 Section 002       CRN 31628
Shakespeare    1530-1645 TR

In the twenty-first century, interest in the works of William Shakespeare shows no sign of abating. Shakespeare studies are still one of the most vibrant and exciting areas of English Renaissance literature, in part because Shakespeare had the good fortune to be a great synthesizer of the most popular trends in Renaissance literature, philosophy, and drama. This semester we will consider the Shakespeare of the English Renaissance, as well as the Shakespeare(s) of the present. Our primary goals will be to familiarize you with the categories of Shakespeare’s plays and to introduce you to the techniques that Shakespeare uses, the historical, political, and cultural backdrops to the plays, and ways of analyzing character, theme, and structure in them. Ultimately, this class is meant to prepare you to read Shakespeare on your own and to enjoy the plays in performance in an informed manner. To facilitate these goals, we will examine a few representative plays in great depth. (Group 3D)