Shakespeare and European Modernity

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1 Shakespeare and European Modernity Professor Lina Steiner s: Course Description: What do we mean when we describe our age as (post)modern? When did modernity begin and how did it change our ideas about what it means to be a human being, a subject or a citizen? How did the advent of European modernity challenge such ancient institutions as the patriarchal family and monarchy? How did the relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers, and other interpersonal relationships in society, have evolved as a result of the cultural, ideological and economic changes brought on by modernization? Thinking globally, how did European modernity transform the world through science, economics and ideology? The answers to many of these questions can be found in Shakespeare, whose tragedies, comedies and historical plays continue to inspire contemporary writers, stage and film directors. In this course we, too, will read and analyze some of Shakespeare s most famous plays and sonnets, along with some films and plays by later playwrights who took Shakespeare either as their model or as an object of parody. As we explore how Shakespeare was understood through the ages, we will become acquainted with a number of popular cultural and scientific movements, such as, for example, psychoanalysis. The history of filmmaking as reflected through the Shakespeare films is another important theme of this course. Please be prepared to watch, analyze and discuss classic and contemporary movies and to read and write film reviews. Since this is a class devoted to poetry and theater, we are going to visit a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play in Moscow. We are also going to take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to declaim Shakespeare s monologues and soliloquies. These exercises will improve one s public speaking skills and English pronunciation. 1

2 Course Requirements: Students are expected to attend all classes, keep up with the readings and home assignments. You may miss up to three class meetings due to illness or personal emergency. The take-home final exam (approximately 5-6 pp.) will take place during the exam week. Grading: Attendance and participation in classroom discussions: 20% Skits and other group assignments: 25% Home work (book reports or film reviews, maximum 2 pages long will be assigned every other week) 25 % Take-home final exam: 30% Primary Texts: William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello Julius Caesar, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice,The Tempest W.S. Gilbert, Rozencranz and Guildenstern (fragment) Tom Soppard, Rozencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead Films: Hamlet director Laurence Olivier (1948) Hamlet director Franco Zefirelli (1990) Hamlet director Michael Almereyda (2000) Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead director Tom Stoppard (1990) Henry V director Kenneth Branagh (1989) Romeo and Juliet director James Berardinelli (1996) The Merchant of Venice director Michael Radford (2004) Prospero s Books director Peter Greenaway (1991) Secondary Texts: Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus 2

3 Zigmund Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality (extracts) Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare: Will and the World (selected chpts.) David Bevington, Murder Most Foul: Hamlet Through the Ages (selected chtps.) Selected film reviews from Screen, The New York Times, The London Review of Books, The New Yorker and other contemporary magazines. Preliminary Schedule: Week One Introductory Discussion. Shakespeare, Hamlet Act One. Discussion. Week Two Shakespeare, Hamlet acts two and three. Reading and Discussion. Topics: What is a revenge drama? How does Shakespeare transform a revenge drama into a (post)christian tragedy? Where does the ghost come from? Did Elizabethans believe in ghosts and fairies? Christianity in Elizabethan England (Reformation, counter- Reformation, debates about Shakespeare s religious views). Hamlet, acts three and four. Topics for discussion: Hamlet and Ophelia (Misogyny or madness?); Claudius as an usurper. Political allusions/subtexts in Hamlet. Hamlet as a rebel/opponent and Hamlet as a hyper-reflective individual who hesitates to act. Week Three Hamlet final discussion. Stoic Philosophy and Realpolitik in Hamlet. Hamlet and Horation. The Fortinbras plot. Tragic denouement. Eighteenth-century, Romantic and Victorian reactions to Hamlet: Samuel Johnson, Goethe, Mary Wollestonecraft, English Romantics, George Eliot (Lecture/discussion). 3

4 Week Four Hamlet on stage and on screen (lecture). Laurence Olivier s Hamlet. Laurence Olivier s Hamlet: analysis and discussion. Additional screening this week: Hamlet director Franco Zefirelli (1990) Week Five Psychoanalytic interpretations of Hamlet. Ernst Jones and Freud. Incest and Taboo. The Oedipus complex. The Family romance. Discussion of Olivier s and Zefirelli s film. Students will be asked to read and write short film reviews. Week Six A Parody of Hamlet : W.S. Gilbert, Rozencranz and Guildenstern A postmodern approach to Hamlet : Tom Stoppard, Rozencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead Week Seven Rozencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Reading and discussion. Screening: Rozencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead dir. Tom Stoppard Discussion of the film. Week Eight Shakespeare on Power, Usurpation and Political Conspiracy: Julius Caesar. Continue to read and discuss Julius Caesar. Week Nine Shakespeare on state building, kingship and authority: Henry V Screening: Henry V dir. Kenneth Branagh Politics of the Elizabethan and Jacobean age. Imperialism. 4

5 Week Ten Shakespeare on love: Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet. Sonnets. Screening: Romeo and Juliet dir. James Berardinelli (1996) Week Eleven Shakespeare on jealousy: Othello. Continue reading and discussion of Othello. Topics: encountering other civilizations/cultures. Shakespeare on race and identity politics. Week Twelve Political topics in Shakespeare s The Tempest : gender roles, masters and slaves, Europe and its Others. Shakespeare on European Humanism: The Tempest. Additional (recommended)film (screening tba): Prospero s Books dir. Peter Greenaway. Week Thirteen Shakespeare on Money and Power: The Merchant of Venice The Quality of Mercy : Shakespeare on justice. Screening: The Merchant of Venice dir. Michael Radford (2004) Week Fourteen Concluding discussion topics: economics, social status, ambition and mobility in modernity as seen by Shakespeare ( The Merchant of Venice, Othello, The Tempest and other plays). Week Fifteen Postmodern Shakespeare: Hamlet director Michael Almereyda (2000) Screening and discussion. 5

6 Week Sixteen Consultations. The take-home final exam is due next week. 6

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