ENGL719C - Seminar in Renaissance Literature: Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage

This course will examine what centuries of criticism can tell us about Shakespeare and what using Shakespeare as a diachronic constant can tell us about literary criticism. The course title derives from Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, Brian Vickers’ six volume series covering the years 1623-1801, but our survey will extend right up to the present time. The assessment of critical methods and substantive readings will occupy our time more or less equally. In order to set some limits on our task, we will dwell on just a few plays and/or poems but on many of the formidable responses on record—Restoration, Romantic, Victorian, American, post-colonial, etc. An attempt will be made to describe and to analyze the rhetoric(s) of Shakespeare criticism, hence to make students more self-conscious readers of secondary works in general. Because the relevant literature is vast and any sample I might choose would be arbitrary, students will help me to design our syllabus (between May and August 2010), aiming to canvas periods, methods, and critics of greatest interest to them, whether Dryden or Coleridge, George Eliot or Virginia Woolf, Harry Berger or Janet Adelman.


Permission of department.