This class will explore Shakespeare's participation in our culture, focusing on representations of him and his plays in the twentieth century. Shakespeare is obviously one of the most important figures in western culture: why else would there be a big picture of him at the entrance of Bennett Hall, or public debates about his place in the college curriculum? By tracing the critical and production histories of Shakespeare over the last century, we can gain a sense of the role that Shakespeare plays in Anglo-American culture. In addition to reading a range of the plays, we will read the works of scholars from various movements of Shakespearean criticism (moving roughly from A.C. Bradley to Stephen Greenblatt, and including feminist scholars, structuralists and performance critics). We will also consider theatrical and filmic representations of the plays, and possibly conclude with some examples of texts that rewrite Shakespeare's plays. By putting the cultural history of Shakespeare alongside textual criticism of the plays, we will strive to better understand the ways in which we read the plays today.
There will be weekly listserv postings, class presentations, and several short papers, one of which will be expanded into a final 15-page paper.