In what may well have been Shakespeare’s favorite text, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, humans change into beasts, plants, stones, and elements. Similar transformations occur in Shakespeare’s works: men turn to beasts, youths to flowers, women to stone, and persons dissolve into clouds or water drops. Reading Ovid’s myths and Shakespeare works side by side, we will focus on such moments of fluidity when human identity slips into that of another kind of species or matter. Is such shape-shifting merely the result of poetic and dramatic license? Or is it indicative of a different way of relating the human to other forms of existence? What is so special about the human species? And in what ways do the ludic, fictive, and fantastic liberties taken by poetry and drama provide a productive arena for exploring the plasticity of human identity?
Texts: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Allen Mandelbaum’s translation), and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, King Lear, Anthony and Cleopatra, Winter’s Tale.
Requirements: Routine class exercises and two papers.