English | Late Plays of Shakespeare
L314 | 7004 | Penelope Anderson

Penelope Anderson

11:15a-12:05p MWF (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

TOPIC:  “Lame Reports:  Theater and Disbelief”

Narrating the story of a miraculous reunion in The Winter’s Tale,
the anonymous Third Gentleman tells his friends that “I never heard
of such another encounter, which lames report to follow it, and
undoes description to do it.”  But, of course, he is describing the
encounter even as he says that it is impossible to do so.  In this
course, we will investigate what happens if, instead of suspending
disbelief, we follow it and its near relations:  impossibility,
suspicion, slander, lying, and nihilism.  What can we understand
about the language and effects of theater if we examine the moments
when it tells us not to believe?  How do moments of implausibility
and incomprehension help to produce Shakespeare’s famously realistic
characters?  What do – and what don’t – we want to believe in and
about the theater?

We will read Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Othello,
King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and relevant criticism.
Requirements for the course will include regular attendance and
active participation; two formal papers; at least one oral
presentation; several short, informal writing assignments; a
midterm; and a final exam.