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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Ellis Goldberg
POL S 414
Seattle Campus

Politics and Culture

How people interpret and shape the political world around them through the use of such cultural resources as language, symbolism, myth, and ritual. The various uses of these cultural elements establish the place of the individual in society, influence the perception of political events, and create opportunities for individual and mass political responses.

Class description

Description: Whether Shakespeare shaped our understanding of the human as Harold Bloom alleged, he certainly shaped our understanding of how human relationships are profoundly shaped by power. Of the many ways we can use Shakespeares work to think about power and culture we will focus on two. First, we will read one set of the history plays for insight into the relationship between moral authority, political legitimacy, and the power to compel. For this section of the course we will focus on Richard II, Henry IV (I and II); and Henry V and consider both the general issues and their particular relationship to early modern English history and culture. Second, we will consider the Roman plays to come to grips with the ways that Shakespeare viewed the role of the individual, sensuality, duty, and political power as important but contradictory aspects of human existence. For this we shall read Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus. We will attempt to draw some explicit comparisons between Shakespeares concerns manifest in the plays and contemporary issues about the relationship of religion to politics.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Students are encouraged to bring to the course their own concerns about politics and understanding of literature. It is critical that all plays be read in a timely fashion and students may find it useful to use video versions of the plays to facilitate reading them. Watching, however, is no substitute for close reading. Students who are unaware of what the term close reading means may find it useful to consult How Does a Poem Mean by John Ciardi.

Recommended preparation

Texts: Readings for the course include an edition of the plays that will be sold at the University Bookstore, Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics; and a reader on sale at Rams.

Class assignments and grading

Grades: The grade for the course will be determined by writing five response papers (one every other week) on themes of the course (30% total); one term paper (10-15 pages) (40%) and a final examination (30%). I reserve the right to give up to five pop quizzes that will be worth 1% each to be sure students are covering the reading.


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 Suman C. Chhabra
Date: 02/24/2005