WesMaps - Wesleyan University Catalog 2010-2011       Summer Session       Winter Session       Home       Archive       Search
Shakespeare and the Category of the Human
CHUM 259
Spring 2011 not offered
Crosslisting: ENGL 259

The Renaissance has been described as the historical moment that marked the "birth of the individual" (Burckhardt), while Shakespeare has been dubbed the inventor of the "human" (Bloom), or at least of modern "subjectivity effects" (Fineman). This seminar will explore these claims (and recent poststructuralist and cultural materialist challenges to them) through an examination of the category of the human in Shakespeare's poems and plays. In particular, we will consider the ways in which the category of the human is constructed through that which is opposed to or excluded from it (including the categories of the divine, the bestial, the supernatural, the monstrous, the alien, etc.). How do representations of the more-than-human (gods, kings, heroes), the inhuman (ghosts, fairies, monsters, witches, villains), and the less-than-human (slaves, strangers, victims, children, animals) participate in the definition of the human and in the construction of dramatic character? These questions will be approached historically (through a consideration of the ways in which the human, inhuman, subhuman, and superhuman were defined in Shakespeare's time), theoretically (through a consideration of recent critical debates surrounding these issues), and formally (through a consideration of the tropes and technologies of character-writing, such as personification, speech prefixes, pronouns, titles, proper names, etc.). Other questions we will consider include: How did the emergence of humanism and the Protestant Reformation in England affect the contours of the human? How did humoral psychology shape Shakespeare's depiction of the human psyche? How did debates surrounding the divine right of kings shape the humanity of Shakespeare's monarchs? What produces the literary effect of personhood or subjectivity? How is the "interiority" of Shakespearean characters (the dramatic illusion of "that within which passeth show") created through text and performance? What are the functions and politics of Shakespeare's quasi-human and subhuman characters? What roles do animals play in Shakespeare as social metaphors or utilitarian instruments? How do such attributes as status, gender, race, and nationality affect a character's inclusion in the category of the human?

Essential Capabilities: None
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ENGL
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None

Last Updated on MAR-29-2023
Contact wesmaps@wesleyan.edu to submit comments or suggestions. Please include a url, course title, faculty name or other page reference in your email ? Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459