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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Christopher John-F Martin
ENGL 225
Seattle Campus


Introduces Shakespeare's career as dramatist, with study of representative comedies, tragedies, romances, and history plays.

Class description

William Shakespeare's corpus stands as a high-water-mark in the history of English language drama. While we don't know when he was born, exactly, he was baptized the 26th of April, 1564 and died 23 April, 1616. He married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18. When he was 21, in 1585, Shakespeare began his career as an actor, writer, and playwright. While there is some debate (and an upcoming film) as to whether Shakespeare was responsible for composing all of the works attributed to him, we will try to focus mainly on some of the texts and performances, taking all controversy in stride.

Few figures have been so frequently the subject of the Bard's attention as the fool. Showing up in a large quantity of his plays, fools often complicate the narrative usually to subvert or invert the play's established social norms or hierarchies.

The focus of this class is on Shakespeare's plays where the fool (or Jester or Clown) figures significantly into the drama, and that shows himself to be more than just...a fool. We will concentrate on reading the texts firstly, as texts, then we will attempt to situate our own readings within a contextual and critical framework. Some theorists we will likely read are C. L. Barber, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Northrop Frye. There will be a minimum of theory in this course--the majority of the interpreting will be done with the plays directly.

We will, in addition to reading several of Shakespeare's plays, watch a few of them, since our critical framework for understanding the plays should not exclude but embrace the performative aspects of plays.

Plays we will read: As You Like It, King Lear, The Tempest, 1 Henry IV, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Merchant of Venice.

The reading load of this class will be rigorous, and the content difficult, but rewarding. Attentiveness to the literature and criticism is a requirement. Students will be required to (TBA) write weekly Go-Postings, commenting on critical positions raised in the texts or in class, or do weekly reading questions. In addition, each student (with a group of 3 others) will give one 15 minute presentation of a selected text and then lead classroom discussion that day. Paper topics must be submitted in writing to me two weeks before the paper is due.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Grades will be assessed by class participation and quality of essays. Students will be able to revise one of their essays over the course of the quarter.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Christopher John-F Martin
Date: 12/29/2011