“Shakespeare” (ENGL 115). Course Description: Today, Shakespeare is venerated as the “Bard” and “wonder of the stage.” His peers were more divided. Early in his career, he was accused of plagiarism (“there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers,” fumed Robert Greene) and, after achieving star-status, he was said to be lazy in his editing (“I would he had blotted a thousand [lines],” mused Ben Jonson). How did the imagination and language of this upstart crow shock and delight audiences then—and why do his plays continue to offer entertainment, consolation, and debate today? In this course, we will study some of Shakespeare’s most enduring works, such as Twelfth Night, Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest. Coursework comprises discussion, essays, presentations, and performances (watching professional productions and performing scenes from the plays). This course counts as a foundation course requirement for the English major. Counts as WA and Humanities. A recent class trip to see The Tempest at the Guthrie Theatre was the subject of this Macalester article.
“Once upon a Crime” (ENGL 140). Course description: This course provides an introduction to law and literature. How does literature shape law and vice versa? How does literature help us to better understand the consequences of revenge, the elusiveness of confession, and the tension between justice and law? How does literature “tell the story that must be told” (M. NourbeSe Philip)? Readings will come from a variety of literary traditions and periods: fairy tales, early modern drama, contemporary film and poetry, and literary and legal scholarship. This course counts for WA (Writing for Argument). It also counts as a foundational course for the English major and as a course for the Legal Studies Concentration.
“Major Medieval and Renaissance British Authors” (ENGL 200). Course Description: This survey provides an introduction to the masterpieces of medieval and early modern literature. What is old, middle, and early modern English? How does the lyric formally (and thematically) differ from the epic and romance? When did drama acquire its characteristic structure? In addition to these formal questions, we will explore the controversies that roiled premodern cultures pertaining to race, gender, and religion.
“Demonology” (ENGL 294 or 394). Course Description: The story goes like this. While performing Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus—a play featuring spell-casting, necromancy, and other devilish arts—the actors noticed that “there was one devil too many amongst them.” They stopped the play; the audience panicked. Whether a true story or not (the anecdote comes down to us through a seventeenth-century source), it captures one of the “certainties” of the period: that demons, devils, witches, and other things of darkness are a part of the here and now. In this course, we explore sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries tales of the demonic. At the same time, we examine how authors used the public’s fascination with the supernatural to explore urgent issues of the day: laws governing service, controversies regarding freewill and election, customs informing rites of hospitality and charity. Hence, just as characters strive to see beyond appearances and outward show, so we shall investigate the religious, political, and legal debates out of which the texts arise. Central to our study are the major works of early modern English literature such as Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, and lesser known texts such as The Witch of Edmonton, The Discovery of Witchcraft, and King James I’s Demonology.
An article about the class posted to Mac’s homepage on Oct. 31, 2016: http://www.macalester.edu/news/2016/10/demonology/
“Adaptations: Shakespeare, Verdi, and the Politics of Art” (ENGL 294). Co-taught with my colleague in Music Mark Mazullo. Course description: This is a course about adaptation, translation, and the relationship between theater and opera. It is also a course about the history and politics of these two art forms. Like many people in the nineteenth century, Giuseppe Verdi adored Shakespeare. He adapted three of Shakespeare’s plays—Macbeth, Othello, and The Merry Wives of Windsor—for the Italian operatic stage. Today, Verdi’s Macbeth, Otello, and Falstaff are beloved and frequently produced, yet few grasp the revolutionary spirit behind Verdi’s adaptations let alone the political undertow of Shakespeare’s texts. Using “adaptation” as our theoretical framework, we’ll tackle the problem of translation, reception, and the politics of art by asking such questions as: for whom was this art created and under what cultural, religious, and political conditions? How does the text imagine a multiplicity of subjectivities (inflected by racial, gender, and religious difference)? How do these fictional subjectivities challenge the expectations of audiences? What national and international artistic traditions influenced Shakespeare and Verdi? What is gained or lost through adaptation?
“Studies in Shakespeare: Shakespeare and Justice” (ENGL 310). Course Description: In Shakespeare’s England, whipping, branding, mutilation (of the hand, nose, ears, or face), pillorying, hanging, burning, and beheading were common forms of legal punishment. The rigors of early modern law may seem strange or “barbaric” to us, yet we may recognize the intentions behind the laws: to restore order, to keep the peace, and to stabilize social relations. To grasp what justice meant to the early moderns and, in turn, what it means to us today, we will examine some of Shakespeare’s most challenging plays through the lens of legal and political philosophy. Plays such as Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello stage a spectrum of responses to insult, injury, and violence. At the same time, the texts trouble the division between good and evil, justice and revenge. Our agenda is two-fold: to deepen our reading of Shakespearean drama and to use our knowledge to investigate difficult and still unresolved questions about the problem of evil, the dialectic between law and justice, and the meaning of the “good life.” My teaching blog, Adventures in Teaching Law and Literature traces the arc of a single class “Shakespeare and Justice” (ENGL 310).
“Disability in the English Renaissance” (ENGL 394). Course description: This course explores representations of disability and ability in late medieval and early modern England (c. 1500-1700). How was bodymind normativity, ability, and disability defined in the Renaissance? Why did writers turn to literature to explore illness and disability? And where might we discover evidence of disability gain or disability pride in the early modern archive? We’ll be reading a variety of genres: medical literature, herbals (self-help remedy books written for laypeople), law books, joke books, ballads, poetry, and drama. We will also study recent scholarship in disability theory and early modern disability studies. No prior knowledge of the topic or of Renaissance literature is expected. This course counts for the Renaissance period requirement. Prerequisite: a 100- or 200-level course in English.
“Engage! Fandom and the Undisciplining of Criticism” (ENGL 401). Course description: Since the 1990s, fans have moved from the margins to the mainstream. Fans wield enormous power over the global media market. Early fandom scholarship emphasized the utopian values of fans, but recent work—based on the research and personal testimony of fans of color—reveal the phenomenon of harmful “colorblindness” in fandom. One thing is clear: a good deal of cultural knowledge is made outside of the academy in so-called “amateur” collaborative and communal spaces. What does this moment of “undisciplining”—the breaking down of disciplinary expertise and its attendant mystique—mean for literary studies? For the humanities? As you transition from being a student to a graduate, how do you see yourself applying the resources of literature to shape your relationship to communities in the years to come? Like other capstones, this one aims to create a space for both solo and communal reading, debate, and reflection. Students will design a research paper on a topic of their choosing. No prior knowledge of literary theory is assumed.
University of Southern California
“Writing: Law and Social Justice,” Writing 150, Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.
“Close Encounters: Plotting Cultural Difference,” Thematic Option Core 112, Spring 2011.
“Revolutions in Reading,” Thematic Option Core 112, Spring 2010.
“Cultures and Values: Inspiration,” Thematic Option Core 111, Fall 2009 and Fall 2010.
“Writing: Diversity and Racial Conflict,” Writing 140, Spring 2009.
“Writing: Environment and Ethics,” Writing 140, Fall 2008.
“Writing: Law, Politics, and Public Policy,” Writing 140, Fall 2007 and Spring 2008.