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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Norman J. Wacker
ENGL 323
Seattle Campus

Shakespeare to 1603

Shakespeare's career as dramatist before 1603 (including Hamlet). Study of history plays, comedies, and tragedies.

Class description

This course is online. The main goal of this course is to help you understand and enjoy your own reading, imagining, and viewing of Shakespeare and to explore the underlying dramatic structures that shape experience of his poems and plays. You will learn in the course to: 1) closely read the poetic language, the imagery, and the themes of Shakespeare’s major poetry and drama; 2) reconstruct some of the cultural contexts of Shakespeare’s work; 3) think critically about the role dramatic structure plays in the interpretation and meaning of Shakespeare’s plays; 4) use pre-writing, online discussion and study questions to develop your critical reading and writing skills; and 5) write critically about individual works and the larger contours of Shakespeare’s early career.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

By reading the assigned works, participating in online discussion, completing pre-writing, study questions, assigned papers, and reviewing for the exam, you will pursue a strenuous and significant exercise in developing personal capacities (mental, emotional, and even physical) to appraise Shakespeare and his legacy in Anglo-American and World culture.

You will also be embroiled in making sense of some of the universal cruxes of humanity. Viewing the world through the eyes of Shakespeare’s characters, we are--if only vicariously--complacent; we are tempted; we have our heads turned; we fall from grace or power; we depose, assassinate, rationalize and appease. We live out the dramatic consequences of problematic choices, contributing in the process to the rottenness of the body politic, reproving it gently or amputating its regrettably diseased limbs. We expose as well the very foundations on which our sense of the good and human stand, and the forces most likely to shake them.

Recommended preparation

Your course will be available March 23, 2001. To access the course materials, go to http://www.extension.washington.edu/online. Click on the "Log On" link on the left side of the page.

You will be prompted to enter your User Name and Password. You User Name is your UW Student Identification number. The temporary password is password. When you have successfully logged on, you will be prompted to change your password. Please write down your new password in a secure place.

Click on the "My Courses" link under "Student" options on the navigation bar on the left side of the page to view a link to your course. Click on the course name to view the course syllabus, which includes links to the lessons and assignments for the course.

For detailed instructions on accessing your course and using UW Online, please go to http://www.extension.washington.edu/online/help/uwonline_access.htm

The required text for the course is Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 4th ed. David Bevington; Scott Foresman. 1997.

Class assignments and grading

Reader’s Diaries

The first two lessons include model reader’s diaries--examples of the actively engaged and ultimately speculative nature of reading Shakespeare’s art. In them, I share my efforts to understand particular sonnets, tracing the multiplication of the perspective and point of view voiced in any one sonnet as it takes its place in the whole, much like a "scene" in a larger dramatic sequence. In lessons thereafter, the prompts to reading will be more spare, more open-ended, framing and inviting active reading while allowing you to reflect on and deepen your own participation as reader in the plays.

Prewriting, Online Discussion, Rough Drafts, Peer Reviewing and Revisions

The assignments in this course are demanding, and require that you be analytical. Each poses a puzzle or question about an important aspect of the poem or play, for which there can be more than one thoughtful, well-supported answer. The assignments ask that you demonstrate close knowledge of the text, but as a step toward the "answer" or a position on the question that you will state explicitly in the thesis paragraph. Prewriting, online discussion, drafting to clarify what you know and what you think about it, are essential steps in preparing writing of this kind. Each assignment requires that you participate in online discussion and include a copy of the well-developed prewriting that you have done.

About the Final Exam

My goal for the final exam is to build on the reading and responding you have done in the essay assignments. I have selected all exam questions from the English 323 online course guide. The exam includes two questions for each of our six lessons; you will choose and write on one question for each lesson, a total of six questions. You will also complete Assignment 7: “Your Approach to a Shakespeare Play" as a part of the exam. You are welcome to use any prewriting you have done in preparation for the exam, and to consult Bevington’s The Collected Works of Shakespeare as you write.

Each of the major essays and the final exam are weighted equally in computing your grade. Criteria for evaluating major essays and the final exam are available on the English 323 is available in the course introduction at the link provided above.


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.
Additional Information
Last Update by Joan L. Mc Carter
Date: 03/23/2001