English 190

Research Seminar: Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2017 Bahr, Stephanie M

MWF 2-3 47 Evans Renaissance and Early Modern
Research Seminars

Book List

Césaire, Aimé: A Tempest; Msomi, Welcome: uMabatha; Sears, Djanet: Harlem Duet; Shakespeare, William: Macbeth; Shakespeare, William: Othello; Shakespeare, William: The Merchant of Venice; Shakespeare, William: The Tempest; Shakespeare, William: Titus Andronicus

Other Readings and Media

Films:Throne of Blood, dir. Akira Kurosawa; Omkara, dir. Vishal Bhardwaj; The MāoriMerchant of Venice, dir. Don Selwin.

A course reader including: Thomas Hariot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia; “Of cannibals,” Michel de Montaigne; The Merchants Advizo; “Hamlet in the Bush,” Laura Bonnanan; “Claudius’s Diary,” Shiga Naoya; “The Robben Island Bible”; selections from Race in Early Modern England: a Documentary Companion, ed. Ania Loomba; selections from A Theory of Adaptation, Linda Hutcheon.

Digital Resource: MIT’s Global Shakespeares Archive (http://globalshakespeares.org/) ed. Alexander Huang and Peter Donaldson.


William Shakespeare's works have been staged all over the world, adapted as films, operas, musicals, ballets, and novels.  They have been transposed into diverse settings, from fascist Italy to the Wild West, medieval Japan to the fictional planet of Altair IV. Writers and artists have blended the works of Shakespeare with an array of global traditions, ranging from Japanese Noh Theater to Korean Opera. Why has Shakespeare captured imaginations so vividly around the world?  Harold Bloom even goes so far as to credit Shakespeare with the very “invention of the human.” Can it be that, as Shakespeare lovers and scholars have often claimed, there’s a universality to The Bard’s genius addressing “the human condition”? Or does the global dissemination and adaptation of Shakespeare engage political and cultural forces that go far beyond the individual brilliance of one Renaissance playwright?  And, if so, what do these cultural intersections mean?

To engage these questions, we will begin with an examination of five Shakespeare plays in their original historical context on the page and on the stage. We will lay the groundwork for interrogating assumptions about the “universality of the human” by paying particular attention to issues of identity, race, and gender in Shakespeare’s works in the early modern context.  We will then expand our view to these plays’ production histories around the world using the video clips, interviews, and reviews on MIT’s Global Shakespeares Archive. And finally we will examine an array of 20th and 21st century works from around the globe that are variously described as “adaptations,” “appropriations,” or “translations” of the plays we’ve studied. If, as some have argued, Shakespeare and the Western canon have been tools of cultural oppression, then how might these adaptations be read as acts of rebellion or liberation? What value have these writers found in Shakespeare’s material?  How do they transform, correct, or reimagine Shakespeare’s works and even the figure of Shakespeare himself?

This section of English 190 satisfies the Shakespeare requirement for the English major.

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

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