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.

View the course syllabus here: English 9076B. PDF download