Comparative Literature | Literature and Ideas: Montaigne and Shakespeare
C347 | 28842 | H. Marks
TR 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm
Carries CS and A&H Distribution Credit
Literary historians have often suggested that the sense of personal
identity is a historical phenomenon that emerges only in the late
sixteenth century. Rather than thinking in terms of classes or
estates, writers begin to present characters as individuals, endowed
with complexity, coherence, and an evolving consciousness of self.
This shift seems to be driven in part by a skeptical strain in
sixteenth-century thought, a strain that corresponds to the apparent
instability of political and religious institutions, and to doubts
about the reliability of moral judgments, on the one hand, and
linguistic representations, on the other. These convergent
tendencies are all subtly at play in the work of Montaigne and
Shakespeare--the two writers who reflected more deeply perhaps than
any before or since on the fluidity and persistence of individual
identity. In this course, we shall see what can be gained from
reading them together, juxtaposing selections from the essays of
Montaigne with poems and plays by Shakespeare, whose engagement with
Montaigne's work is particularly evident in the period between
Hamlet and King Lear.
Writing for the course will probably take the form of brief response
papers followed by a longer comparative essay.