EL 401 Syllabus

Please see the official copy here: Syllabus


EL 401 Fall 2016

Location: JF 124 and JF 302
Tuesdays 15:00-15:50 and Fridays 15:00-16:50

Instructor: Dr. Ethan Guagliardo

Office: TB 409

Office Hours: TBA and by appointment

Course Description

This course will read a selection of Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies, and histories in terms of larger questions they pose about the nature and performance of political power and authority—questions every bit as relevant today as they were in early modern England. For instance, what does it mean to be a good political leader, and can a good political leader also be a good person? Are political virtues and authority substantial, or are they performances and fictional constructs? How can we even tell the difference between the two? What is the relationship between the state and greater forms of (dis)order that envelope it, like nature (human and cosmic) or the gods? And to what extent ought the state to attempt to regulate, if it can, life, love, and realms of human freedom like the imagination? We will pay particular attention to how the self-consciously theatrical character of Shakespearean drama is well-suited to investigating these questions, and we will throughout read historically, keeping in mind the qualities of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatrical genre and performance, ideologies, and institutions through which Shakespeare’s work came alive in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. And finally: Shakespeare is not boring, and this class won’t be either!


All texts are Folder Shakespeare Library Editions and available at the bookstore or online.

Weekly Schedule

Week 1:

T Sept 20 Introduction: the rise of commercial theater.

F Sept 23 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Acts 1-3. Read: Pyramus and Thisbe

Week 2:

T Sept 27 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Acts 4-5; Response Paper 1 Due.

F Sept 30 A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Week 3:

T Oct 4 Richard II, Acts 1-3; Response Paper 2 Due.

F Oct 7 Richard II, Acts 4-5

Week 4

T Oct 11 Richard II, continued; Response Paper 3 Due. Read: Victoria Kahn, “Political Theology and Fiction in The King’s Two Bodies”

F Oct 14 Richard II, continued / Henry IV Part 1, act 1.

Week 5:

T Oct 18 Henry IV Part 1, Act 2 Response Paper 4 Due.

F Oct 21 Henry IV Part 1, Acts 3-4.

Week 6:

T Oct 25 Henry IV Part 1, Act 5. Response Paper 5 Due.

Week 7:

T Nov 1 Hamlet, Act 1. Response Paper 6 Due. Choose play.


F Nov 4 Hamlet, Act 2.

Week 8

T Nov 8 Hamlet, Acts 3-4. Response Paper 7 Due.

F Nov 11 Hamlet, Act 5.

Week 9:

T Nov 15 Hamlet, continued; no response (Spend this time researching your play!).

F Nov 18 Measure for Measure, Act 1.

Week 10

T Nov 22 Measure for Measure, Acts 2-3. Response Paper 8 (annotated bib of five sources) Due.

F Nov 25 Measure for Measure, Acts 4-5. 

Week 11:

T Nov 29 Measure for Measure, continued. First 2 pages of term paper due. No response.

F Dec 2 King Lear, Act 1.

Week 12

T Dec 6 King Lear, Acts 2-3: First 5 pages of term paper due. No response.

F Dec 9 King Lear, Act 4.

Week 13:

T Dec 13 King Lear, Act 5. Response Paper 9 Due.

F Dec 16 King Lear, Continued.

***Final Paper Due Tuesday, Dec. 20th***


Participation/Quizzes: Your participation grade will hang on your attention and engagement in the class. I understand that not everyone is fully comfortable speaking in public, and if you are so disinclined please see me. However, I do encourage you to try.

Weekly Assignments: Response papers due every week, except when otherwise noted in the syllabus. These exercises are meant to hone various skills pertaining to close reading, and will be accompanied by prompts and group work designed to improve your writing about literature. You must not write on material previously discussed in class!

Paper: 10 page research paper on a play we did not discuss in class. The play and the specific focus or topic are up to you, in consultation with me. These papers will be due in graded installments:

Play and topic. Write a paragraph describing the play you want to consider and the questions (the topic) you want to ask of this play. For instance, you may want to consider the supernatural in Julius Caesar as a framing device for exploring the limits of political action, or violent spectacle in Henry V in terms of its implications for theatricality and violence.

Bibliography. Do preliminary research by finding sources on your play related to your topic. Ask for help! Not all sources are created equal: choose wisely and well.

First two pages. The goal of this installment is not to create a perfect two pages, but to begin the terribly laborious process of ejecting your ideas from the hazy realm of the mind onto the concrete page. We will discuss strategies for beginning a paper in class.

First five pages. A beginning of a first draft. Ideally, these first five pages will demonstrate that you have read your sources, laid out the ongoing critical conversation about your topic, and have begun to develop an argument.

Final Exam: Short answer and essay questions.

Grade Distribution

Participation 20%

Weekly Assignments 25%

Research Paper 30%
            First two pages 2.5%
            First five pages 5%
            Final product 22.5%

Final Exam 25%

Other Course Policies

Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. Participation is crucial to your success in this course. Six or more unexcused absences will result in an F. If you are unseasonably late, you will be marked as absent.

Late papers: Are not accepted unless you make arrangements with me at least 24 hours in advance.


Academic Honesty: Don’t plagiarize. You will be caught.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close