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Shakespeare and the Category of the Human
ENGL 259
Spring 2015 not offered

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 human is constructed through that which is opposed to or excluded from it (e.g., the divine, bestial, supernatural, monstrous, alien, etc.). How do representations of the more-than-human (gods, kings, heroes), inhuman (ghosts, fairies, monsters, witches, villains), and less-than-human (slaves, strangers, victims, children, animals) participate in the definition of humankind? This question will be approached historically (by examining how the human, inhuman, subhuman, and superhuman were defined in Shakespeare's time), theoretically (by examining recent critical debates surrounding these issues), and formally (by analyzing 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 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 dramatic roles do animals play as social metaphors or utilitarian instruments? How do such attributes as status, gender, race, and nationality affect a character's inclusion in/exclusion from the category of the human?
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 JUL-16-2024
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