E242 – Introduction to Shakespeare

Credit Hours:
3

Course Level:
Undergraduate

Semesters Offered:
Fall Spring Summer

Description: Description: This course is designed to introduce students, mainly lower-division and non-English majors, to reading in the Humanities. Instructors, choosing from various available reading models (for example, New Critical, cultural, psychoanalytic, reader response, feminist, structuralist, archetypal) will offer their students multiple strategies for reading and locating Shakespeare, strategies which can be applied to other texts in the Humanities as well. The goal of the instruction of multiple ways in reading is to make students aware how each model of reading places emphasis on different aspects of the text, context, and reader, leading to different interpretations of how literature represents human experience.

As an approved course in the III-B Arts/Humanities category of the All University Core Curriculum, E 242 fulfills all five of the criteria for this category.

The course uses the fundamental methods and perceptions involved in the study of literature. In exploring the infinite variety of Shakespeare’s works, the student is brought to the realization that the act of reading and the interpretive act that accompanies it are not unproblematic processes and that meaning does not lie as an objective given within the text, but results from interpretive acts to which the reader subjects the texts.

Drama animates a spectrum of social, political, emotional, economic, gendered characters in relation to one another. Students cannot read Shakespeare without learning more about themselves and contemplating language which illuminates all human experience. The course provides an opportunity for studying romantic, tragic, comic, and historic forms of drama. The romantic/tragic explore human desire, cosmic “absolutes”, ethics and morality, and the limitations of human aspiration. The comic explores social interdependence and hierarchy, and the flawed and the “human” in human behavior. Histories explore political power and historical context.

The course trains the student in close reading and communicating his/her analysis and interpretive discoveries through a number of writing assignments in which the student demonstrates the ability to use the techniques and vocabulary of literary analysis. These two acts – close reading and interpretive analysis – are fundamental to critical thinking.

Any study of Shakespeare’s plays relies primarily on discovering the sub-texts of each character and each action, the character’s motivations, intentions, and psychology. In showing how different reading models may be applied to texts, the course also suggests to the student the strength and weaknesses of the various models. Moreover, Shakespeare is not studied just as an Elizabethan author, but as an evolving cultural performance, recreated continuously for 400 years.

The skills of oral and written communication are both extensively practiced in the course.