English 9076B

Apocryphal, Collaborative, and “Bad” Shakespeares

Instructor: Professor James Purkis
Winter Half Course.

The bounds of the Shakespeare canon are populated by a number puzzling texts: the apocryphal, the collaborative, and the “bad”. These texts, either misattributed to Shakespeare, incompletely by Shakespeare, or deemed mediated or pirated versions of his genuine work (or even a combination of the above), pose practical and theoretical questions for the integrity of ‘the Shakespearean’, whether the term is understood to apply to the work of Shakespeare-the-practical-dramatist or Shakespeare-the-cultural-icon. They also (for the most part) represent a collection of fascinating plays worthy of study irrespective of their Shakespearean interest.

This course will explore a number of these texts and the conceptual problems that they pose for ‘the Shakespearean’. Classes will examine the theoretical issues that arise from these plays’ reception by Shakespeareans; ask questions about the integrity of the canon, the theoretical confusions of collaboration, and the identity of texts; and explore what is involved (culturally, conceptually, practically) when a text is attributed to Shakespeare. Reading and discussion will take as a starting-point the circumstances under which Shakespeare’s plays first reached their theatrical and print publics, as well as the manner(s) in which Shakespearean texts have been received and reproduced subsequently.