Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Thematic Through-Line?

Macbeth. So foul and fair a day I have not seen. (1.3.35)

Macbeth. This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be ill, cannot be good. (1.3.129-30)

Lady Macduff. I am in this earthly world where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly. (4.2.71-74)

Macduff. Such welcome and unwelcome things at once,
'Tis hard to reconcile. (4.3.138-39)

Macbeth in Perfomance

Ian McKellen (Macbeth) and Judi Dench (Lady Macbeth)

Ian McKellen, The Dagger Soliloquy

Ian McKellen, "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow"

Ian McKellen discusses Macbeth's last soliloquy

Macbeth: Historical Context

Top to bottom: family tree from John Leslie, De origine, moribus et rebus gestis Scotorum (1578); title-page of King James's Daemonologie (1597); portrait of King James by Daniel Mytens (1621); portrait of Martin Luther by the Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (c.1532); portrait of Desiderius Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shakespeare and Selfhood: Select Bibliography

Some of the books and articles below deal with selfhood quite explicitly. Others explore related concepts such as performance, political subjectivity, conscience, emotion, and sensation. I offer these sources as potential starting points as you begin to brainstorm ideas for your paper. As always, let me know if you have questions!

Altman, Joel B. The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978.
------. The Improbability of Othello: Rhetorical Anthropology and Shakespearean Selfhood. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Archer, John Michael. Technically Alive: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Bailey, Amanda. Of Bondage: Debt, Property, and Personhood in Early Modern England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
Beckwith, Sarah. Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
Braun, Harald and Edward Vallance, eds. Contexts of Conscience in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Curran, Kevin. “Feeling Criminal in Macbeth.” Criticism 54.3 (2012): 391-401, Special Issue on "Shakespeare and Phenomenology," ed. Kevin Curran and James Kearney.
------. “Hospitable Justice: Law and Selfhood in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” Law, Culture, and the Humanities 9 (2013): 295-310.
De Grazia, Margreta, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass, eds., Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
------. Hamlet without Hamlet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
 Ferry, Anne. The “Inward” Language: Sonnets of Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Fineman, Joel. Shakespeare’s Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
Floyd-Wilson, Mary. English Ethnicity and Race in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
------ and Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr., eds., Environment and Embodiment in Early Modern England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Fudge, Erica. Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality, and Humanity in Early Modern England. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006.
Garber, Marjorie. Daemonic Figures: Shakespeare and the Question of Conscience. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Hanson, Elizabeth. Discovering the Subject in Renaissance England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Harris, Jonathan Gil. Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.
Hartley, Andrew James. “Page and Stage Again: Rethinking Renaissance Character Phenomenologically,” in New Directions in Renaissance Drama and Performance Studies, ed. Sarah Werner, 77-91. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Harvey, Elizabeth D., ed. Sensible Flesh: On Touch in Early Modern Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
Holbrook, Peter. Shakespeare’s Individualism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Hutson, Lorna. The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Kinney, Arthur. Lies Like Truth: Shakespeare, Macbeth, and the Cultural Moment. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001.
Kottman, Paul. A Politics of the Scene. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.
Kuzner, James. Open Subjects: English Renaissance Republicans, Modern Selfhoods, and the Virtue of Vulnerability. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.
Lee, John. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Controversies of Self. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000.
Lupton, Julia Reinhard. Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
------. Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Maus, Katharine Eisaman. Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
------. Being and Having in Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Paster, Gail Kern. Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
------, Katherine Rowe, and Mary Floyd-Wilson, eds., Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Reiss, Timothy J. Mirages of the Selfe: Patterns of Personhood in Ancient and Early Modern Europe. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.
Schoenfeldt, Michael C. Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Physiology and Inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Seigel, Jerrold. The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe since the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Selleck, Nancy. The Interpersonal Idiom in Shakespeare, Donne, and Early Modern Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Smith, Bruce R. Phenomenal Shakespeare. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Sullivan, Jr., Garrett A. Sleep, Romance, and Human Embodiment: Vitality from Spenser to Milton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Turner, Henry S. “The Problem of the More-than-One: Friendship, Calculation, and Political Association in The Merchant of Venice.” Shakespeare Quarterly 57 (2006): 413-42.
Watson, Robert. Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Werner, Sarah, ed. New Directions in Renaissance Drama and Performance Studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Wilson, Luke. Theaters of Intention: Drama and the Law in Early Modern England. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.
Yates, Julian. Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002

Monday, November 9, 2015

Research Paper

Due: Friday, December 11 (before midnight)
Length: 3,000 words
Format: Word, double-spaced, standard margins, standard font (Times New Roman or Cambria). Your paper should have a title and your name on it.
How to submit: by email (kevin.curran@unil.ch). Write "Research Paper" in the subject line. Use your last name as the file name (i.e. Johnson.doc).

The major assignment of the course, the Research Paper should tackle a significant question and demonstrate: 

(1) that you have read the relevant plays/sonnets very closely.
(2) that you know how to advance a compelling argument and support it with evidence.
(3) that you know how to position that argument in relation to the ideas of other critics.
(4) that you know how to analyze literary texts in a way that is responsive to cultural, historical, and/or philosophical context.

You may work on any topic relevant to our course theme, "Shakespeare and Selfhood," and any play or plays we've dealt with. The sonnets are fair game, too. I don't offer ready-made essay prompts of the sort you'd find on an exam. At Masters level, I think it's crucial that you learn how to develop your own research topics--topics that are significant but still manageable. This is an important intellectual and critical skill. That said, I'm happy to list a few broad areas of investigation that might help you focus your thinking a bit. Most of this stuff grows out of discussions we've had in class.

Selfhood and science

Selfhood and the Reformation

Selfhood and Renaissance education  

Selfhood and performance

Philosophical contexts of selfhood 
(Aristotle, phenomneology; agency, intention; the mind-body problem; etc.)

Selfhood and economics

Selfhood and political theory 

Selfhood and gender and/or sexuality 

Humans and animals

Humans and things

Colonial contexts

And much, much more!   

Remember that scholarship, like theater, benefits from collaboration and discussion. Talk to each other as you develop your paper topics. And feel free to come talk to me, too! I'm more than happy to offer guidance. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Exam Dossiers -- Deadline: Friday, December 4

If you choose to take a university exam on this course, please send me your dossier -- a short description of two themes you'd like to write an essay on and a reading list of 8-10 items that will allow you to deepen your knowledge of those themes -- by the end of week 12: Friday, December 4.

If you are opting for a written exam, you will get back from me two questions and you will choose one.

If you are opting for an oral exam, you will not have a choice but will instead be presented with one topic to discuss on the day of the exam.

Remember: You don't have to take an exam on this course. You may decide instead to validate it simply by doing the course assignments and getting a final grade. This is your choice. If you do choose to do the exam and this happens to be your first semester in the M.A. program, then you're on the 2015 plan d'études and don't have to do the course work. (i.e. You do the exam instead of the course assignments.) If you choose to do the exam and this is not your first semester in the M.A. program then you're on the old plan d'études and have to do all coursework as well as the exam.

Midterm In-Class Project

When: November 10
What: A "theatrical treatment" of a scene of your choice that addresses selfhood.
How: Individually or in pairs (if you choose the latter, both students will receive the same grade)
Where: In class (and to be completed by the end of the class period)
Medium: Typed or handwritten. You can email me your work by the end of the class period or hand it in directly. However, all feedback will be given via email, so if you handwrite, please include your email address. In both cases, be sure to include your name(s)

For this assignment you must choose a scene (any scene from any of the plays on the course schedule) and produce a "theatrical treatment" that addresses the theme of selfhood.

What this means specifically is that you should choose a scene or a passage that, according to you, expresses a particular idea about selfhood. Then, thinking like a director, you must decide what performative and scenographic decisions you would make to articulate this idea about selfhood on stage. Who would be on stage? How would they be arranged in space? How would they move? Would there be specific considerations given to casting, acting, lighting, scenery, costume? These are just some of the questions you might consider as you're working on this project.

A central assumption of this course is that "selfhood" is a theme that has both a conceptual and a theatrical dimension in Shakespeare's plays. The point of this assignment, therefore, is to get you to bring together these two modes of analysis--the conceptual and the theatrical--in a way that's mutually illuminating.

The "theatrical treatment" you write in class should consist of two sections:

(1) An analysis of how selfhood is represented in the scene you've chosen (1-2 pages). This is straightforward literary-critical analysis.

(2) A description of the precise performative and scenographic decisions you would make to articulate to a theater audience the ideas about selfhood you just outlined in the previous section. This should consist of precise description, almost like extended stage directions or theatrical program notes. Modern playwrights like Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill frequently include extended stage directions that describe exactly how scenes should be treated in order to advance the particular ideas they have in mind. You're not required to imitate this style, but if you think you'd find it helpful to consult some of these playwrights as a loose guide, feel free to do so.

I suggest you start thinking about which scene you might want to work on as soon as possible. Set aside some time during Reading Week to plan and generate some notes. You're allowed to bring these notes and a copy of the play on the day of the assignment.

Have fun with this project! It's unique in that it allows you to bring together critical and creative thinking. I hope you enjoy working on it.

NOTE: If this semester, autumn 2015, is your first semester in the MA program and you intend to validate this course with the university exam, then you don't have to do this assignment.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Thoughts on Shakespeare's Sonnets and Selfhood

As I read through our selection of sonnets, two basic questions emerge as central to our critical task. They are as follows:

(1) What does the poetic treatment of love and desire in the 16th/17th century have to tell us about conceptions of selfhood in that period?

(2) In what ways does Shakespeare interrogate or struggle with those conceptions of selfhood?

The first question is methodological and theoretical. It has to do with poetry's status as intellectual-historical evidence. What can this kind of source tell us about selfhood that other sources can't? The second question has to do with an individual writer's craft. To get a better sense of this, you may (if you have time) choose to look at some other sonnets written by other English Renaissance poets for comparison. A couple useful ones are Edmund Spenser's sonnet 75 (from the Amoretti, 1594) and Philip Sidney's sonnet 1 (from Astrohpil and Stella, 1591).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Historical Contexts: What is a Self?

Top to bottom: image from René Descartes, Discourse on Method, Optics, Geometry, and Meteorology (Leiden, 1637); frontispiece to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London, 1651), detail from Leviathan frontispiece; frontispiece and two images from Andreas Vesalius, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Basel, 1543).


Welcome, everyone, to "Shakespeare and Selfhood," an M.A. seminar at the University of Lausanne. I look forward to working with you over the next several months. Below is a basic course description. (You can download a full prospectus and class schedule from Moodle.) This blog will be used to post discussion questions, assignment information, and other resources, so please bookmark it and check it regularly. Thanks!

Shakespeare and Selfhood
Autumn 2015
Anthropole 4129
Tuesday, 10:15­-11:45
Prof. Kevin Curran
Office: Anth 5123
Consultation: Tuesdays, 1:00-3:00 PM
Email: kevin.curran@unil.ch

What is a self? Are we minds that just happen to perceive a body and physical surroundings, or are we bodies whose sensory experience of material reality creates something that feels like an independent mental world? Are we free agents, or are our actions determined by our environment? And if we can figure out who we are, does that make it easier to know how we should live? For example, is there a certain system of governance (monarchy, democracy, socialism) that is more in sync with human nature than others? There have been many attempts to answer these questions in philosophy, politics, science, law, and religion. The premise of this course, a premise shared by many readers and theatergoers from the eighteenth century onwards, is that Shakespeare, too, has something to tell us about selfhood. Focusing on a selection of plays, this course will explore the relationship between Shakespearean drama and the idea of selfhood from two perspectives: (1) Historical: Shakespeare wrote his plays during what is typically taken to be a watershed period in the history of selfhood, a period during which some have argued the modern self—closed, autonomous, interiorized, uniquely individual—begins to emerge. (2) Theatrical: the social and material contexts in which Shakespeare’s plays were performed and the gestural and rhetorical practices used to form character on stage contribute to specific ways of understanding the self.