Macalester College

My teaching blog, Adventures in Teaching Law and Literature traces the arc of a single class “Shakespeare and Justice” (ENGL 310).

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“Shakespeare” (ENGL 115). Course Description: Shakespeare has been called the “star of poets” and “wonder of the stage.” How do his plays delight, puzzle, and instill “wonder”? How did he transform Renaissance poetry? In this course, we will focus on some of Shakespeare’s most celebrated works, including the Sonnets, the comedies (Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure), the history plays (Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1), and the tragedies (Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello). Our study comprises class discussion, essays, and performances: watching professional productions and performing scenes from the plays. We will analyze Shakespeare’s formal and stylistic inventions. We will examine issues of character, action, and plot. For centuries, Shakespeare has inspired writers to perfect their craft and pursue their creative ambitions. You are invited to participate in this exciting and evolving literary tradition.

“Once upon a Crime” (ENGL 194). Course description: This course serves as an introduction to law and literature. How does literature shape law and vice versa? How does literature help us to better understand the human desire for revenge, retribution, confession, witnessing, judgment, remorse, and forgiveness? Readings come from a variety of literary traditions and periods: fairy tales, early modern drama, essays, short stories, film, and literary and legal theory.

“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 pre-modern 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.”

“Senior Capstone: Shakespeare and Literary Methods,” ENGL 400. Course Description: The literary capstone class is taken by seniors in their fourth year of study. The course consists of three interlocking objectives. The first is to provide students with the opportunity to develop an original research project. The second is to explore influential critical/theoretical approaches from the early twentieth century to the present. Both critical practice and critical theory are emphasized: how to use online databases to find the latest/best publications on a primary text, gather and organize sources using Zotero, and read a primary text using psychoanalysis, phenomenology, post-Marxist criticism, queer or feminist theory, etc. The course’s third objective is to empower students to teach their research interests. Students select and teach a critical essay; they also prepare and deliver a formal presentation of the project at the end of the semester. The final portfolio consists of the research essay (15+ pp), a cover letter (non-academic), a statement of purpose (academic), a CV, a resume, and a brief reflection essay.

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.

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