Dear registrant in English 510:
I'm writing to welcome you to the graduate Shakespeare seminar, to let you know what I have planned for the course, and to suggest some advance preparation you can do before Winter quarter starts.
The course is divided into three parts.
The month of January will be devoted to the study of the historical Shakespeare, beginning with a discussion of Henry V . We'll compare traditional historicist approaches to the play with some that exemplify the currently prominent school of "New Historicism." After the first two class meetings, each member of the seminar will give a thirty minute presentation on a literary-historical issue pertaining either to the course's preassigned plays (Henry V, Macbeth, andTwelfth Night ) or to some other play we agree on. This presentation will be accompanied by a fifteen page compendium of duplicated materials--critical, historical, archival, bibliographic-- provided to the seminar members one class in advance. The class presentation will serve as the basis of a twelve to fifteen page research paper. After incorporating feedback from seminar participants and the instructor, the paper will be prepared for submission to a specified journal by the end of the quarter.
The second portion of the class, from February 6 to February 22, will examine Shakespeare in performance--a critical approach recently dubbed "The New Histrionicism." We'll read essays on the Elizabethan stage, on "intepretation" in the dramatic sense--that is, on directing and acting, on the anthropological and phenomenological nature of theatre, and on the scholarly debate between adherents of page and stage. We'll view and review various film and video productions of Macbeth (including Verdi's opera and Kurasawa's Throne of Blood ) and of Henry V (including the recent Branach production during its run at the Palm Theatre), and once again, leave room for participants to select additional plays for consideration. After my introduction, each seminar participant will make a second presentation combining a discussion of performance criticism with their own observations about alternative productions of a particular play.
The last three weeks of the course will be devoted to planning and rehearsal ofTwelfth Night , in preparation for our own public performances on campus Thursday March 15 and Friday March 16. Please reserve those dates early. Everyone in the class will participate in this production, whether as actors, directors, musicians, set, prop, costume and lighting people, or in some other capacity. The final writing project will be an eight to ten page essay comparing our experiences with Shakespeare as scholar-critics, as spectators, and as collaborative performers.
Since this is such a full schedule, I'd like to make it possible for you to do some advance preparation. Here is a prioritized list:
1. Read the three preselected plays for the course, Henry V, Twelfth Night and Macbeth .
2. Read all the material--introductions, sources, critical essays--in the "New Revised Signet" editions of these plays, required texts for the course.
3. Read Shakespearean Negotiations by Stephen Greenblatt (UCal Press, Berkeley, l988), especially the first two chapters. This book, another required text, is on order in El Corral bookstore and is also on reserve in the library.
4. Select and start researching a topic for your first presentation on some historical issue relevant to one of the plays. If you prefer to focus on a play other than Henry V, Macbeth , orTwelfth Night , please get in touch with me before December 22, so that I can limit the number of additional texts we all need to read. Here are some sample topics:
On Henry V
1.Shakespeare's use and modification of his sources in Holinshead and "The Famous Victories."
2. The genre of Tudor History play: Marlowe, Jonson, Peele
3. Just vs. unjust wars in Renaissance political theory
4. War and Gender
5. The growth of British nationalism: political and cultural
6. Use of dialects and foreign languages in HV
7. Religion and politics: gods and kings
8. The issue of female sovereignty: The Salique Law, Katharine and Elizabeth
9. Literature and propaganda
10. British -- French rivalry
On Twelfth Night :
1. Renaissance attitudes and laws regarding homosexuality
2. Inheritance, property and gender
3. Transvestitism, cross-dressing, hermaphrodism in relation to female impersonation on the Elizabethan stage.
4. Cavalier (libertine) vs. Puritan cultures
5. Comic conventions and the suspension of disbelief; the twins joke
6. Comedy and cruelty: bear-bating in the theatre
7. Jesters, clowns and fools: who is Feste?
8. Servants and masters--taboos and transgressions
9. Knights of the realm: the inflation of honors
10. Cakes and ale: Drunkenness on stage and in society
On Macbeth :
1. Witchcraft in Jacobean England
2. The Royal house of Banquo and James I's involvement with the theatre
3. Shakespeare's representations of madness and Renaissance psychology
4. Ghosts: real, projections, or stage-illusions?
5. The political implications of regicide and tyrannicide.
6. Macbeth and the censors
7. The strange stage history of "The Scottish Play": Macbeth 's taboos
8. Lady Macbeth and the Renaissance virago stereotype
I look forward to working with you in the coming year.