Hamlet has been called one of the world’s “great creations of tragic poetry” (Sigmund Freud) and an “artistic failure” (T.S. Eliot); its central character has been declared insane, melancholic, rational and philosophically insightful, a hyper-sensitive poet, a brutal killer, and a prototypical case of the Oedipal complex. The play has probably engendered more critical commentary than any other work of English literature. Why has Hamlet become so central to the literary canon? Why has it proved so popular with spectators, readers, theater directors, and filmmakers over the years? And which Hamlet (there are at least three) is Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Through an intensive, semester-long study of the play, we will explore its central themes and problems; the relationship among its early texts (first quarto, second quarto, first folio); and its diverse history of performance, interpretation, and adaptation over the past four centuries. As the pilot version of a new course we are designing called the Junior Research Seminar, the work is designed to involve students in the kinds of research that the discipline of literary studies currently demands, including: working with primary sources, reviewing the critical literature, using online databases, exploring relevant contexts in literary, linguistic, and cultural history. Several interim assignments will be designed to enable and culminate in a final project, a critical essay of 12-15 pages. (Students wishing to do a creative final project will be allowed to do so with the permission of the instructor.) The final project must emerge out of each student's intensive, independent research agenda.