26 August 2013

Shakespeare 2013 Syllabus



           Shakespeare                                                                                                     ENG341
Mead                                                                                                               Fall 2013

August
27        T          Introduction
29        R          Romeo & Juliet. Mass of the Holy Spirit
September
 3         T          Romeo & Juliet
 5         R          Romeo & Juliet
10        T          A Midsummer Night’s Dream
12        R          A Midsummer Night’s Dream
17        T          A Midsummer Night’s Dream
19        R          Much Ado About Nothing
24        T          Much Ado About Nothing           Paper #1 due.
26        R          Much Ado About Nothing
October
 1        T          Twelfth Night
 3        R          Twelfth Night
 8        T          Twelfth Night
10       R          Richard II
15       T          NO CLASS
17       R          Richard II                                  Paper #2 Due.
22       T          Richard II
24       R          1 Henry IV
29       T          1 Henry IV
31       R          1 Henry IV
November
 5        T          NO CLASS
 7        R          Hamlet
12       T          Hamlet                                      Paper #3 Due.
14       R          Hamlet
19       T          King Lear
21       R          King Lear
26       T          King Lear
28       R          NO CLASS
December
 3        T          Evaluations.  Speeches.           Paper #4 Due.

                                                           Class Policies
ENG341, Shakespeare, is a required class for all English majors and satisfies the General Education requirement for literature. In this section of the class, we will read carefully eight plays in the genres of comedy, history, and tragedy. These are just a small sampling of the 37+ plays that William Shakespeare wrote or co-wrote (in the Early Modern period, playwrights frequently collaborated).  I have chosen plays that offer the student both a taste of Shakespeare’s breadth and will “teach well” together by reinforcing habits of reading, inquiry, and interpretation.  Further, I have paired the plays to emphasize how one can read Shakespeare’s work comparatively, even across genres.  Romeo & Juliet is paired with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Both of these plays were composed around the same time, and they illustrate how genre is sometimes merely a matter of perspective. Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night, two mature comedies, each give a distinct view of the female experience in the patriarchal world. Unsurprisingly, each play depends upon disguise.  Richard II and 1 Henry IV are the first two plays in Shakespeare’s second historical tetralogy, telling (with great artistic license) the events of Richard’s usurpation by his cousin Bolingbroke in 1399 and Bolingbroke’s son’s rise from a ne’er-do-well to the stuff of glory. Finally, we have the apex (although by no means the end of Shakespeare’s most powerful work) of Shakespearean tragedy with Hamlet and King Lear.  Significantly both plays are historical fictions, both are God-haunted, both deal with the very darkest possibilities of human experience and thought.  Yet Hamlet is very much a younger person’s play, and King Lear carefully gauges the movement from one’s prime to middle age to senescence. And yet again, one can say after reading both plays, that Hamlet is also very much haunted by Lear, and Lear is frequently permeated by essences of Hamlet.

How we are going to “learn” Shakespeare
Our work will consist of reading, re-reading, noting (with much ado), discussing, researching, and writing.  That is a LOT of work, so please begin this semester with an acceptance of the tasks that are necessary to completing the class.  I expect you to have each play read completely before the first class meeting on the play.  I also expect each student to RE-READ the play before our second class on the play.  With the exception of Hamlet, which is Shakespeare’s longest play, it usually takes from 3-4 hours to read each play (carefully, taking notes).  That puts you at roughly eight hours of reading for this class per week-and-a-half.  Of course, when you are working on papers, you will also be researching and reading secondary sources as well as re-re-read all or portions of select plays. When you read (and I strongly encourage you to read from a paper-clad book, so you can take notes, write in margins, underline passages, jot in definitions, etc.) be sure to have a pen or pencil in your hand and a notebook at your elbow. Try simply to get the gist of the plot, the personalities of the characters, and the emotional arc of the play. When you re-read, you will notice so much more than you did the first time through. This is the time to consider themes, recurrences, contradictions, deliberate problems, interpretations.

On the first day of each play, I will offer you a general sense of the play’s meaning, structure, and characterization.  To begin these classes, we will have a brief (ten-question) factual quiz designed to gauge the care with which you read the plays for the first time. This is the day that you have read, but not re-read, the play.  Nevertheless, I invite and encourage questions, comments, assertions, and interpretations to interrupt and enliven my monotonic soporifics.  On the second day of a play, you will have re-read the play, and the class will be devoted to student observations, interpretations, and questions.  On the third day of each play, we will have read a critical essay appropriate to the play.  We will, together, analyze the article and discuss its merits and limitations.  These secondary works will introduce students to critical habits of language, focus, and construction.

The next step in “learning” Shakespeare is to construct an essay that interprets an idea or theme shared by the two plays of the section.  This paper must be thesis-driven, constructed of clear topic sentences that define the paragraphs’ topics and connect the topic to the thesis, close-reading of brief, selected passages, and the integration of at least three peer-juried critical articles.  Papers should be roughly 5-7 pages long, exclusive of Notes (required) and Works Cited (strict MLA format).  

 Grades:  Each paper is worth 20% of your final grade.  All papers must be completed to pass the course.  Participation (determined by attendance, preparedness, thoughtful engagement in class discussions, office visits, quiz scores, promptness, and how helpful one is to other students) will constitute 20% of your final grade.

Attendance: You are required to attend all class meetings, to be there on time, prepared, and to remain until the end.  Please have your book and notebook opened and ready at the beginning of each class.  TAKE NOTES during class. You have three free absences; beyond three, your final grade will be lowered by one decrement per absence.

Students with special needs must inform the instructor at the beginning of the semester, and he will make all reasonable accommodations.

Please visit my Blog at http://stephenxmead.blogspot.com/ my blog has required reading for policies such as plagiarism and useful handouts such as edit sheets—but there’s also lots of good stuff for you to look through.  There will also be copies of the syllabus and class policies, in case you lose this.

Speeches:  Student can boost their final grades up one increment by memorizing and presenting 20+ FULL lines of Shakespeare, from one of the eight plays in the reading list.  Five or fewer errors gets you the boost.  And there are do-overs.

Office Hours: OM312b.  Students who meet with their professors (or other students) to talk about the texts and the writing process do better than those who do not.  Please see me as a resource for your success and excellence in the class.  If you are not free during office hours, we can make a special appointment. tel. 438-4336 smead@stmartin.edu. You may, of course, email me, but I cannot promise to respond before the next class meeting.

MWF 10-12AM.  TR 8:30-9:30. And by appointment.
You can follow me on Twitter at sxmead.  

Required Texts: The Pelican Shakespeare (2nd edition).

I will also make available to you eight articles that you need to study for day three of each play.
Please check your university email in box regularly, as this is the only way I can contact all of you in case of timely messages, changes in syllabus, or helpful prompts.

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