English 617Studies in Shakespeare: Female Rage from Medea to Lady Macbeth

Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832

Medea killing her children


COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will emphasize the influence of classical tragedy on Shakespearean tragedy (and that of selected contemporaries). It will especially focus on the way Euripides, Aeschylus, and Seneca focus on female grief and loss and the desire for revenge, and the ways in which that emphasis manifests in Shakespeare's (and his contemporaries') portrayals of both female and male characters experiencing grief and loss and the desire for revenge.

EVALUATION METHOD: Active and engaged participation; summary and analysis of three scholarly essays; final essay.


Participation and Attendance: Prepared and intelligent participation--having read the material and given it thought enough to develop a point of view that you are not reticent to express (lacking an opinion about this material may well be a sign of imminent neural-system failure)--is mandatory. This will account for 20% of the course grade, and since I won't be keeping a log of who speaks when, your job is to give me an overall sense of your engagement throughout the term. See my policy on dullness below.

Summary and Analysis of Scholarly Essays: In the range of 4-5 pages, (1000-1500 words): all three essays must have a clear relation to the subject matter of this course--treat these as an opportunity to get a head start on research for the final paper. #1 will be due in class 2/26, #2 in class 3/26, and #3 in class 4/23. These will, in total, account for 40% of the course grade.

Final: In the range of 15-20 pages (4000-6000 words), this will be an essay on how Shakespeare and his contemporaries use/abuse/transform/challenge/reproduce the classical portrayals of female grief, anger, revenge, and desire (for power and/or self-determination). This essay will be a deeply-researched argument paper that makes use of primary and secondary sources. Print is an excellent thing, and books are still the coin of the realm in the highest reaches of humanities scholarship, but journal articles can sometimes be more immediate in terms of what is going on at the moment. Have a look at the CSUN library's page outlining electronic resources for English. Quotations from the works you deal with—and quotations from secondary sources—should follow MLA or Chicago format (pro tip: despite the obsession of many English professors with MLA format, most humanities-oriented publishers in the USA use Chicago, and very few publishers of any kind outside the USA use MLA. Your professors are insisting that you use a citation style that those among them that actually publish do not use (or use only rarely). Cui bono?

The final essay will be due by 11:59:59 PM on 5/14 by email (no physical submissions of finals). In your email subject line, put "English 617 final" and make sure your name is on your paper, especially if using a non-CSUN address. Send in .doc or .docx or .pdf formats only. This will account for the remaining 40% of the course grade.

READING LIST (for the Greek and Latin works listed belowAeschylus, Euripides, Senecathe exact edition listed is necessary; for English works, other editions may suffice):

The Complete Pelican Shakespeare
ISBN-13: 978-0141000589

The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia
(Greek Tragedy in New Translations)

ISBN-13: 978-0199753635
Hecuba (Greek Tragedy in New Translations)

ISBN-13: 978-0195068740
Medea (Greek Tragedy in New Translations)

ISBN-13: 978-0195145663
Iphigeneia at Aulis (Greek Tragedy in New Translations)

ISBN-13: 978-0195077094
The Tragedies, Vol. 1

ISBN-13: 978-0801843099
Anger, Mercy, Revenge

ISBN-13: 978-0226748429
Elizabeth Cary,
The Tragedy of Mariam (Arden Early Modern Drama) 1st Edition

ISBN-13: 978-1904271598
John Webster,
The Duchess of Malfi (Arden Early Modern Drama)

ISBN-13: 978-1904271512
Arden of Faversham

ISBN-13: 978-0713677652

Statement on Academic Dishonesty: Plagiarism is a serious offense that will be treated seriously. Please read the CSUN policy here.

Statement on Being Dull: Dullness is an even more serious offense that will be treated even more seriously. (Un)fortunately, CSUN has no policy, so I am left to my own devices when dealing with dullards and dullardry. "[F]or always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits" (As You Like It 1.2.52-53).

Weekly Preview

Week 1(1/22) Introductions: discussion of Shakespeare's education and relation to Greek and Roman poetry and drama--read selections from T.W. Baldwin and Colin Burrow.
Week 2(1/29) Selection from Tanya Pollard; Euripides, Hecuba
Week 3(2/5) Euripides, Medea and Iphigenia at Aulis
Week 4(2/12) Aeschylus,The Oresteia
Week 5(2/19) Seneca, Anger, Mercy, and Revenge, and Medea
Week 6(2/26) William Shakespeare, King John
Week 7(3/5) William Shakespeare, Henry VI, parts 1 and 2
Week 8(3/12) William Shakespeare, Henry VI part 3, and Richard III
Week 9(3/19) Off for Spring Break

Week 10(3/26)
Seneca, Trojan Women and Thyestes
Week 11(4/2) Selection from Tanya Pollard; William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

Week 12(4/9) Anonymous (possibly Shakespeare), Arden of Faversham
Week 13(4/16) Elizabeth Cary,
The Tragedy of Mariam

Week 14)(4/23) John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

Week 15)4/30) William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Week 16)
(5/7) William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Final due by email attachment on 5/14 at 11:59:59 PM—no physical submissions