Tragic Men, Comic Women in Shakespeare Anna Kissin Shechter
Advanced course Fall semester
Some feminist critics of Shakespeare allow that Shakespeare was one of the rare voices who resisted stereotypical thinking by subverting patriarchal constructions of women. Others, specifically the cultural materialists, insist that his subversiveness is only apparent and is really contained and appropriated by the dominant order: Shakespeare “gave voice to the social views of his age. His thoughts on women were necessarily bounded by the parameters of hagiography and misogyny” (Kathleen McLuskie, “The Patriarchal Bard”).
We will examine these critical positions by taking a close look at some of Shakespeare’s tragedies, whose main concern is with the (masculine) central Self and where a woman is always the Other, and at some of his comedies, in which a female heroine who displays wit, charm, strength and resourcefulness often overshadows the males. This, in a nutshell, is Linda Bamber’s thesis, which we will test by reading our plays in the light of Renaissance constructions of genre and gender, as well as of individual and national identity.
The plays will most probably include:
The Taming of the Shrew
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Merchant of Venice
Anthony and Cleopatra
We might also have a look at the Sonnets.
Requirements: there will be a 5-10 page term paper, several quizzes, and a final examination.
In addition, you will be asked to report (both orally and in writing) on selected critical articles and background materials, as well as read passages of Shakespeare verse aloud in class.