Literary Cultures

Literary Cultures

Shakespeare and the World
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Tim Hampton

In many ways Shakespeare is the literary inventor of modernity. His plays depict the psychological, political, economic, and social upheavals that mark the transition from the pre-modern world to a world that is recognizably our own. But he is also the most international of all writers. This course will explore Shakespeare’s extraordinary literary originality by studying his most influential plays in an international context. We will locate Shakespeare in the culture of his period by reading his plays in dialogue with masterworks from across Renaissance Europe. We will consider how he and his contemporaries engage with issues of international scope at a time (like our own) of extraordinary political, religious, and economic turmoil. We will read eight major plays by Shakespeare, as well as works by such authors as Machiavelli, Montaigne, Rabelais, Cervantes, and Petrarch. And we will discuss the global reach of Shakespeare’s work in the centuries since his first productions. This course thus offers an introduction to early modern Europe, an exercise in reading literature in an international context, and an in-depth study of a major author.

Reading List:

Shakespeare, Hamlet, MacBeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Twelfth Night, Henry IV, Part I, The Tempest

Machiavelli, The Prince

Rabelais, Pantagruel

Montaigne, “Of Cannibals”

Petrarch and Wyatt, Selected Sonnets

Columbus, “Journals”

Calderón, Life is a Dream