Periodization knows no better mechanism to account for the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern than secularization. But secularization is also used in the study of the early English drama to describe the transition after the Reformation from the medieval cultic mysteries to the London commercial stage. How does the secularization of the big narrative (and its corollaries in political, philosophical, and aesthetic thought) relate to that of Shakespeare’s stage? How can secularizing concepts drawn from other discourses (for example, occupation, disenchantment, sublation, profanation) be brought to bear on critical terms more familiar to literary forms (typology, symbol, metaphor, character and plot)?
We will begin with the York Corpus Christi cycle before moving to Shakespeare. Areas of focus will include: the supersession of divine right by realpolitik in the second tetralogy (Richard II to Henry V), the Pauline ambience of Comedy of Errors, Pericles, and The Winter’s Tale, the godforsaken world of King Lear, the BC/AD setting of Cymbeline and Anthony and Cleopatra, and the messianic role of Judaism and Islam in Merchant of Venice and Othello. Supplementary readings will include: Schmitt, Adorno, Blumenberg, Koselleck, Agamben (on the secularization debate); Chambers, Records of Early English Drama (REED) series (on pre- and post-Reformation stage history); Beckwith, Parker, Diehl etc. (on Christianity in the mysteries and the plays).
-- Requirements: routine class reports and one term paper.