08 January 2015

ENG341 Shakespeare & His Contemporaries (w/Smith) Spring 2015

ENG 341:  Shakespeare Among His Contemporaries

T & R:  9.30 – 10.50 am

OM 354

Dr. Stephen Mead

Dr. Molly Smith

Course Description

This course will engage students in reading and analyzing plays from the English Renaissance, and encourage them to see Shakespeare alongside his contemporaries as part of a vibrant, engaging, and innovative theatrical culture.  The course will introduce students to social and cultural contexts in Renaissance London and England and compel them to discuss such issues as the extent to which society influenced theatre and theatre, in turn, shaped society. 


We will read 8 plays:  two comedies, two histories, and four tragedies.  Students will identify one critical essay on a play and lead the class in a 15-20 minute discussion of the same.  Readings (other than the plays, which students are encouraged to purchase in hard copy so that they are in sync with the particular editions selected for the class) will be placed on Moodle.

Student Responsibilities

Attend all scheduled class sessions; your final grade will be lowered by one decrement (e.g., B to B-) for every absence beyond three. Students who have excessive absences may be asked to withdraw from the class.  General tardiness will count as ½ an absence.

Read the assigned plays at least twice and contribute without prompting to class discussions

Complete and submit three 5-6 page analytical essays on assigned topics by the assigned deadlines;

Select a critical essay, lead discussion of the same in class, and submit a one-page response to
            the essay in writing within one week after the class discussion

Complete a mid-term and a final examination on their scheduled dates


-          Acquire a deeper understanding of the social and cultural contexts that resulted in theatre’s renaissance in late-sixteenth and early seventeenth century London;

-          Develop an appreciation for the richness of Renaissance drama, and understand Shakespeare as a writer in regular dialogue and debate with his contemporaries;
-          Understand the extent to which Renaissance theatre might help us negotiate modern/contemporary/twenty-first century issues surrounding race and gender, freedom and social constraints, hierarchy and equality, class and privilege, authority and subversion, alterity and inside-ness.

Objectives / Student Learning Outcomes

-          Through three 5-6 page essays, strengthen one’s critical thinking, argumentation, research, and writing skills;

-          Through in-class discussions, demonstrate one’s ability to read texts closely while understanding the larger social and cultural contexts in which they were created; also, participate in “growing” class ideas, showing how an idea is not finished once one “comes up with it”;

-          Identify one critical essay written post 1990 on one of the assigned plays and lead  discussion on the critical piece and its application to the play; note the article’s central argument, its methodology, and its use of secondary sources;

-          Through mid-term and final exams, demonstrate your ability to amalgamate  knowledge into cogent arguments which demonstrate fresh insights into texts and an ability to engage with literary theory and criticism in evolving those insights.



Christopher Marlowe, Edward II (New Mermaids) and William Shakespeare, Richard II (Folger)

Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (1597) and John Fletcher, The Tamer Tamed (1612)

Shakespeare, Macbeth (1605) and Thomas Middleton, Women Beware Women (1621)

Shakespeare, Othello and Middleton and Rowley, The Changeling (1622)

N.B. All Shakespeare editions are Folger Shakespeare Library paperbacks; all other plays are New Mermaids paperbacks.


January 13, Tuesday:              Introductions / Contexts
January 15, Thursday              Edward II
January 20, Tuesday               Edward II
January 22, Thursday              Edward II
January 27, Tuesday               Richard II
January 29, Thursday              Richard II
February 3, Tuesday               Richard II
February 5, Thursday              The Taming of the Shrew
February 10, Tuesday             The Taming of the Shrew
February 12, Thursday            Taming and The Tamer Tamed (Paper #1 Due)

February 17, Tuesday             The Tamer Tamed
February 19, Thursday            The Tamer Tamed
February 24, Tuesday             Macbeth
February 26, Thursday            Macbeth
March 3, Tuesday                   Macbeth
March 5, Thursday                  Mid-term Examination

. . . Spring Break . . .

March 17, Tuesday                 Women Beware Women
March 19, Thursday                Women Beware Women
March 24, Tuesday                 Women Beware Women
March 26, Thursday                Advising Day – No classes
March 31, Tuesday                 Presentations (Paper # 2 Due)
April 2, Thursday                     Presentations
April 7, Tuesday                      Presentations
April 9, Thursday                     Othello
April 14, Tuesday                    Othello
April 16, Thursday                   Othello
April 21, Tuesday                    The Changeling
April 23, Thursday                   The Changeling
April 28, Tuesday                    The Changeling (Paper # 3 Due)
April 30, Thursday                   Wrap-up
May 5, Tuesday                      Final Exam (8:00-10:00)


Papers should provide thesis-driven, interpretive arguments that engage with and/or challenge conventional interpretations of the texts.  Introductory paragraphs must have a clear thesis, methodology, and argument for its own importance (i.e., why is this thesis worth considering?) 
T.I.M: thesis-importance-methodology. Body paragraphs need a topic sentence that connects the paragraph’s idea to the paper’s thesis. Analysis must center on close reading of selected passages:  exploration of how word choice, tone, meter, imagery, syntax, sound effects, repetition, etc. affect the denotative meaning of the passage, in light of your thesis. Unless you speak with the professors at least 24 hours before a due date, late papers will be lowered by one decrement for each calendar day they are tardy.  All papers must be submitted in a cardboard folder with at least two earlier drafts that show the development of the process writing.  Make it clear which copy is the final version.  Each paper is worth 15% of the final grade.
Exams will require you to identify passages from the plays and to write a blue-book essay. Each Exam is worth 20% of the final grade.

*”specific place” does not mean “I.iii.12-22,” or anything that precise; nor does it mean “in the middle of the play” or anything that vague.  It means something along the lines of “when Hamlet visits his mother’s chambers after the play has been performed.”

Participation means your coming to class on time, prepared, having thought about critical issues of the plays, and speaking to the purpose without prompting.  Participation means taking copious notes, listening to and engaging with other students (not just the professors), and following up on class discussions with office meetings, study groups, and trips to the Writing Center.  Participation is worth 15% of your final grade.

Students with special needs must contact the professors in the first week of classes, and they will make all reasonable accommodations.

Office Hours:

Stephen X. Mead         OM312b. tel. 4336, smead@stmartin.edu TR 8:30-9:00, 11:00-11:50.
AND BY APPOINTMENT.  You may leave me a voice or email message, to which I will typically respond by the next class meeting

Molly E. Smith             OM201.  tel.4310, MSmith@stmartin.edu    TR 8.00 – 9.15 and by appointment

Students are strongly encouraged to form reading/study groups to work on reading comprehension, thesis construction, note sharing, and mutual support.  A good size for groups is 3-5; a good session is 45minutes-one hour; a good number of meetings per week is 2.

You must complete all assignments to pass the class.

See Professor Mead’s blog for copies of the syllabus and other relevant handouts:

No comments:

Post a Comment

How to Receive a Paper Back from your Professor

How to Receive a Paper Back from Assessment One of the most important and, alas, overlooked aspects of learning in college is the approp...