Shakespeare: Love and the Ordered Society ENG341
Professor Mead Spring 2018
Dear Students: Because many studies have demonstrated that we learn more and better by handwriting notes, this class has a no-device policy. Do not use or put your laptops on the desk. Phones, tablets, etc. must be in your pockets or bags with the sound turned off. Please obtain a notebook to use exclusively with this class. I will occasionally peruse your notebook to assist your learning.
Like many great writers, Shakespeare explored the tensions, connections, and distinctions between personal relationships (romantic love, platonic love, friendship, loyalty, regard, respect) and the common weal (the community, the state, the family, the church). Early modern thinkers commonly paralleled the head of a household with the head of state. Shakespeare’s world inherited from the middle ages the notion that people are inherently loving creatures, but that one’s love is always subject to disorder, negativity, or illusion. Love is also a strong expression of the individual will, which can often come into conflict with the larger, common good. Conversely, the state might best pursue its goal of order by embracing, insofar as a corporation can, the personal values of compassion, loyalty, and regard for the state’s subjects.
In this class we will read several plays by Shakespeare that deal most directly with the issue of love and government and that relate most effectively to our twenty-first century concerns about order and individual freedoms. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Merchant of Venice, Macbeth. Othello, and Antony & Cleopatra all deal with characters who have public responsibilities and personal, sometimes private, passions. Often, these plays offer us comparisons: the romance of Theseus and Hippolyta in contrast to the passions of the young aristocrats (MND); the questionable moral status of Claudio vs. that of Angelo (MM); the filial loyalty of Portia and Jessica (MV); the families of Macbeth and Macduff; the bloodless Octavius and the passionate Antony—for starters!
Our job will be to read these plays deeply and to try to uncover patterns, suggestions, deliberate contradictions, and maybe even pronouncements that Shakespeare offers to his audience in this area. Questions we may want to ask could include the following: Can a bad lover be a good ruler? Can an attentive spouse be a bad ruler? Can a state be run like a family? Does the state have a responsibility to encourage, demand, require moral behavior? Is personal freedom more important than public order? Is the individual a good model for the state? Is a well-ordered state a good model for a healthy individual? Can theatre usefully model the public good? In what specific ways does gender enforce or complicate public rule and individual desire—and their performance on the theatrical stage? I hope you as students will construct many more and better questions than these!
Outcomes you can expect if you are conscientious in reading, writing, office visiting, and participating include
A greater ability to be aware of multiple dynamics in a text
A stronger internal editor when revising
A deeper sensitivity to nuance
A heightened ability to listen to others and integrate their ideas into your literary imagination
A familiarity with the dual nature of drama as both text and performance
A surer confidence in your personal ability to reason, create, and express
A clear sense of all learning as a collaborative act.
Classroom Behavior for the Most Productive Learning:
Arrive before the hour. Have a notebook, writing instrument,
and text on your desk.
A cup of coffee or a water container is appropriate. A meal is not.
Use the facilities before or after class, not during
(we’ve only 50 minutes).
Keep phones off.
Engage proactively, not reactively. Ask questions. Respond
to other students.
TAKE COPIOUS NOTES.
Act as if you care, even if you don’t. This is a crucial life-skill.
Reading Schedule: Please have the entire play read by the first day of discussion. Please have the play re-read, at the latest, by the third day of discussion. There will be a brief, factual quiz on the first day of each play.
16 T Introduction. Speeches.
18 R A Midsummer Night’s Dream
23 T A Midsummer Night’s Dream
25 R A Midsummer Night’s Dream
30 T A Midsummer Night’s Dream
1 R Twelfth Night
6 T Twelfth Night
8 R Twelfth Night
13 T Twelfth Night
15 R The Merchant of Venice
20 T The Merchant of Venice
22 R The Merchant of Venice
27 T The Merchant of Venice
1 R Measure for Measure
6 T Measure for Measure
8 R Measure for Measure
13 T SPRING BREAK
15 R SPRING BREAK
20 T Measure for Measure
22 R Macbeth
27 T Macbeth
29 R Macbeth
3 T Macbeth
5 R Othello
10 T Othello
12 R Othello
17 T Othello
19 R Antony & Cleopatra
24 T Antony & Cleopatra
26 R Antony & Cleopatra
1 T Antony & Cleopatra
3 R Evaluations. Speeches.
You have asked to be challenged by deciding to pursue a college degree. You may not have imagined what those challenges would look like or how much time and energy you will need to put into meeting those challenges. Please remember that I will always be asking you for your best, asking you to achieve things you have not achieved before, to manage skills you may not have been adept at before. Why else take a class? But please understand that behind my expectations, impelling them, is my desire that you benefit deeply from our collegial inquiry, in preparation for profession life.
The free pursuit of knowledge is your right, as you are a member of this Benedictine community. Therefore, you can expect at college an environment free of harassment, censorship, intimidation, or retaliation. Please consider me an advocate if I may serve you in assuring yourself of what is yours. This also means that if my teaching strategies give you cause for discomfort or confusion, please come and speak me. I promise to listen respectfully and to strive to come to a mutually agreed-upon response.
Speeches are your chance to improve your final grade—and master a new and invigorating skill. Each student who can memorize twenty+ full lines of Shakespeare with fewer than five mistakes will have their final grade improved by one increment. Passages must be approved by instructor in advance.
Attendance is required for all class meetings. Tardiness is counted as an absence, as is coming to class unprepared. More than three absences (for whatever reason; I do not determine the value of your absence) will result in a lowered final grade.
Along with Preparation, Participation is your go-to means of succeeding in the class. To be prepared is to arrive early or on time, to have your book open and a writing pad and pen ready; to participate is to have read and considered the text; to initiate class discussion with claims, questions, and shared observations; to take notes that record the whole class conversation.
Students with special needs must inform the instructor in the first week of classes and he will make all reasonable accommodations.
Papers are to be submitted in a cardboard folder with at least two earlier drafts that show the process of revision (not merely editing and polishing). Papers are to be thesis-driven and rely on close reading of carefully selected passages for methodology. Theses must be original, provocative claims of interpretation that offer the reader new ways of understanding the text. All paragraphs must have topic sentences that connect the paragraph with the thesis as well as make the paragraph’s main claim. Topic sentences are never statements of fact. I encourage you to build on the previous paper, to read broadly the literature on the plays and the issues before beginning to write, and to develop the idea before concerning yourself with the organization. HOW you organize your argument is your methodology.
Reading analytically consists of, first, familiarizing yourself with the characters and the plot. Second, of looking up all vocabulary you might be unfamiliar with. Thirdly, of looking for patterns, parallels, juxtapositions, thematic threads. Fourth, considering how the function of language adds to or complicates the denotative message of the passage (close reading).
Quizzes are designed to help you master the “first read” of a play: getting familiar with plot and character. Each quiz will be ten brief questions with factual answers of a simple phrase or word.
Papers are designed to move you from response and reflection to creating and advancing provocative, interpretive ideas. Four papers are short (2-3 pages) and will require discrete skills (close reading, character analysis, structure identification, responding to other views), all of which will be necessary for your final term paper (10-12 pages). I encourage you to work from your previous papers as you progress through the tasks so that the term paper will be—whatever its subject—a natural growth from your earlier semester’s work.
Paper #1: Dramatic Structure. Choosing either MND or 12thN, construct the shape of the play. You may choose to use analogies (e.g. “MND is shaped like a rubber band that gets stretched out and snapped.”); pictures, flow-charts, or Venn diagrams; historical parallels (e.g. “Viola’s entering Olivia’s house is like Napoleon’s army entering Moscow in the winter”) or any other comparison that seems suitable to you. Be sure to support your thesis with canny references to the text, considerations of genre, and anticipation of the counterargument. 2-3 pages, exclusive of visuals. 10% of final grade
Paper #2: Character Analysis. Choosing a main character from either MM or MV, write a pseudo-psychological treatise that demonstrates how your character has a split personality and how her or his actions in the play successfully or unsuccessfully address this pathology. Be sure to use judicious interpretations of your character’s spoken words, including inferences, implications, tone, and recurrent imagery in their language. 2-3 pages. 10% of final grade
Paper #3: Close Reading. Choose one passage, preferably a speech, of 12-30 lines from either M or O. Interpreting word choice, tone, line breaks, rhythm, rhyme, imagery, sound effects, caesuras, enjambments, diction, and repetition, explain how this speech epitomizes one key issue of the play. 4 pages max.10% of final grade.
Paper #4: Term Paper. Argue an interpretive claim relevant to our class theme of “Love and the Ordered Society,” being sure to include in your methodology an awareness of dramatic structure, character analysis, and close reading, PLUS integration of at least four secondary sources. These sources are to be scholarly articles or book chapters from peer-reviewed publications no older than 1990. 10-12 pages, exclusive of Notes and Works Cited pages. You may choose to use as many as four plays (although 1-3 plays are fully acceptable), but A&C must be one of the plays. 30% of final grade.
Grades help you to gauge your progress as a college student in an upper-division class. In general, a C grade indicates you are doing the minimum to pass the course; B indicate progress beyond expectations; A indicates truly sterling work. On the other end, D indicates deficiency and F failure. Please remember that you must complete all assignments to pass the class. Late papers will be graded down.
Required Text: The Oxford Shakespeare: Complete Works. 2nd Edition. Oxford UP.
Unless you have a reported accommodation need, you will need to use the print version.
Office Hours exist to aid students in progressing in the course. Come see me to discuss the readings, the papers, the class proceedings. Student who use office hours do better than if they did not; it’s just that simple. MWF 10-11, 12-1; TR 8:30-9:30, 11-1. I am not always in my office at these times, so please check with me beforehand. I am also available by appointment. OM312b. You may email me or leave a voice mail, but I cannot promise to respond before the next class meeting. 360-438-4336; email@example.com.
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