English 9120B ~ Shakespeare's Singularity

Professor James Purkis

Winter Half Course.

Shakespeare is often described in terms of his singularity. Such singularity commonly refers to his pre-eminence as a writer, his ‘superlative uniqueness’ as a poet (to quote Gary Taylor). The term may also refer to his writing practices and the assumption that he wrote alone, or that there is a consistent and identifiable ‘Shakespearian’ quality to his works. This course explores such notions of Shakespeare’s singularity by looking at evidence of how he wrote drama, how it was first printed and published, how scholars have sought to attribute works to him or deny his (part) authorship of others, and how early and recent critics have fostered a sense of Shakespeare’s uniqueness. Classes will focus on a variety of Shakespeare’s dramatic works at the centre and outer bounds of the canon, as well as some of the exceptional plays whose apocryphal status has cast an unfortunate Bardolatrous shadow over their reception. They will also discuss some adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. The course will be in part an exploration of how the plays were first written and printed, in part a study how they are attributed and presented today, and in part a cultural history of Shakespeare’s extraordinary status in Anglo-American literary culture.

Possible texts:
Anon, Arden of Faversham
John Madden (dir.) Shakespeare in Love
Anthony Munday and others, Sir Thomas More
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Nahum Tate, King Lear

View the course syllabus here: English 9120B. PDF download