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Ovid and Shakespeare

ENGL 229.301
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3:00 pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

An Ovidian focus brings a strange Shakespeare canon into view: the early, bloody revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus, the late romance The Winter’s Tale, the narrative poems Venus and Adonisand The Rape of Lucrece. In this context, more familiar texts like the Sonnets and A Midsummer Night’s Dream begin to be opened to unfamiliar kinds of reading. This class will approach Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including Christopher Marlowe, by way of their inheritance of the Ovidian corpus and especially their engagement with the central conceit of Ovid’sMetamorphoses: the supernatural transformations that call into question the boundaries of the human. How does metamorphosis as a master trope condition other modes of embodiment, especially gender and sexuality? How are we to understand how acts and discourses of desire and violence coincide in the unsettled, unsettling world of shapeshifting figures? How do these concerns, central to the inheritance by the Renaissance of the classical tradition, shape the literary genres in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries wrote – how, indeed, do they shape Western literary history as we know it? We will approach these and other questions by means of close literary analysis. All readings will be in English, but readers of Latin are invited to bring their expertise to bear on Ovid’s language. Assignments will include short close-reading exercises, two 6-8 pp. analytical essays, and a final paper or project.