In this course we will read Macbeth, King Lear, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra to think about how they represent cultural crisis at every scale: the large scale of a society, country, city-state, or empire in turmoil, the small scale of individual errors, cruelties, deceptions, and self-deceptions, and the medium scale of failures within human relationships (romantic love, family and political bonds), all centered on the figure of a ruler who unleashes chaos on his or her realm. Each of these four plays investigates crises precipitated by or caught up in flawed rule by leaders who overindulge their desires or fail in self-control, empathy, or love, refusing to meet cultural norms related to gender, sexuality, race, family obligations, healthy selfhood, and concern for their citizens. As we think about our own times of crisis and how these plays have been perceived, we’ll also consider the theories of rule and the ties between ruler and land that underpin Shakespeare’s and our interest in linking tragedy to depictions of compelling and terrifying leaders.
Literature, 1500-1789 courses focus on writings during the period of European exploration and colonization -- from the early English Renaissance to the late eighteenth-century -- in order to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history. Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them. The study of early periods in particular sensitizes readers to historical transformations of the language itself.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.