Professor James Purkis
Winter Half Course.
This course will explore instances of textual production, reception, and reproduction that may be said to identify un-Shakespearian Shakespeare. These instances include plays outside of the canon that according to some critics include writing by Shakespeare, such as Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and the anonymous Arden of Faversham; plays among the established works that contain writings not by Shakespeare, like The Two Noble Kinsmen and Macbeth; and drama almost certainly not by Shakespeare that has at some point been attributed to him. Classes will also look at seminal instances of criticism and editing that have shaped both the canon and what is meant by the term “Shakespearian”: Pope’s Preface to his edition of Shakespeare’s Works from 1725, C.F Tucker Brooke’s gathering of The Shakespeare Apocrypha in 1908, and the work of the New Bibliographers to attribute three pages of the manuscript play Sir Thomas More to Shakespeare in the 1920s. By examining the contradictions between the work of an early modern sharer-playwright and the suppositions about Shakespeare’s writing that have dominated critical practice, this course will question the current form of Shakespeare’s canon as well as some of the aesthetic principles that inform Shakespeare’s perceived singularity as a writer. In other words, it will try to think again what is meant by the epithet “Shakespearian”. Classes will also afford an opportunity to study some fascinating and often overlooked plays that inhabit the fringes of the Shakespeare canon.