English 217: Shakespeare

Instructor: Professor Oliver Arnold

Instead of pursuing a master problematic, we will take up a wide range of issues: when I read Shakespeare these days, I am interested in his representations of citizenship, compassion, artificial persons (political representatives, diplomats, surrogates, actors), poverty, the Roman Republic, false consciousness, and slavery; and I expect that other participants will bring many more concerns to the table. This capacious approach will allow us to take full advantage of Shakespeare’s unique importance to the evolution of literary criticism and to the philosophy of art. If Shakespeare studies have in recent decades been most closely associated with the new historicism, the plays and sonnets have been a touchstone for almost every kind of literary criticism (Marxist, psychoanalytic, deconstructionist, postcolonial, feminist, and on and on). We will read seminal articles by Cixous, Derrida, Lacan, Greenblatt, C.L.R. James, Pat Parker, and others. We will also spend some time with the many major philosophers, theorists, and artists–among others, Hegel, Schlegel, Stendhal, Hugo, Marx, and Freud–who make Shakespeare the cornerstone of a post-classical, modern theory of art and society.

We will read, among other works, Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Cymbeline, and The Tempest.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills the elective requirement for the DE in REMS.