Thursday, April 25, 2013

Divvying up Shakespeare

Here at Misnomer U., we have an Early and a Late Shakespeare course. Officially, the dividing line is 1603, although in practice, I tend to push it a year or two earlier (because I am SO not making room for Hamlet in the Early Shakespeare course). I'm not sure I entirely like it -- the second half is tragedytragedytragedy all the time, and there are too many texts to choose from in the first half, but I like it better than dividing by genre, which is what the Beloved Alma Mater did. (Comedies and Histories vs. Tragedies. Because apparently, tragedy is SO much more important that one semester should be devoted to just eleven plays, and as many of the other twenty-seven as will fit should get shoved into the other class, and poetry doesn't count at all.)

But what if we did it alphabetically, and just rotated round and round the alphabet?

Shakespeare I
All's Well that Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Henry IV, Part I
Sonnets 1-31

OK, that sounds kinda good, actually. A nice mix of genres. Kind of a classical theme.

Shakespeare II
Henry IV, Part II
Henry V
Henry VI, Part I
Henry VI, Part II
Henry VI, Part III
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
King John
Sonnets 32-62

That's maybe a lot of ... Henriosity ... even for me. Still, it could work. You could pass it off as a special topics course on Shakespeare and history. IIRC those are the sonnets where he starts getting all thinky about time and posterity, so they sort of fit.

Shakespeare III
King Lear
Love's Labor's Lost
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Sonnets 63-93

This sounds awesome! I would love this semester! All the best plays start with M!

Shakespeare IV
Rape of Lucrece
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Sonnets 94-124

Kinda light on comedy, but otherwise a nice representative mix. I don't think anyone would raise an eyebrow at this.

Shakespeare V
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Two Noble Kinsmen
Twelfth Night
Venus and Adonis
The Winter's Tale
Sonnets 125-154

OK, this semester is on CRACK, but I kind of want to teach it anyway. (If you swapped Shrew for Twelfth Night, you would basically have Special Topics: Shakespeare and Misogyny, which would really be a rather interesting course.)

How does your institution divide up the Shakespeare courses? And how do you secretly wish they did?


Bardiac said...

When I came here, Shakespeare had been divied up by the preferences of the two profs whose retirement prompted two new hires (including me). The new prof and I didn't have the same preferences, and the design meant you could never teach some plays in the same class.

We divied Shakespeare into two courses, one at the lower level, a generalized class, and one at the junior level, where the prof chooses a particular aspect of Shakespeare and goes with that.

For the lower level class, we teach all four genres of play, and also, depending on our preferences, some sonnets or RoL. For the upper level class, we focus on a specific issue: women in Shakespeare, Roman Shakespeare, Shakespeare on Film, whatever. And that's totally a do your own thing course, for juniors, mostly majors, so doing deeper work.

(We also have a senior seminar, by period. One could focus solely on Shakespeare, I suppose. I usually choose a theme and if a Shakespeare text fits, it goes in. If not, not.)

I'm interested to hear what others do, and how it works out.

For us, we don't teach the upper level one often, but usually have a Shakespeare class each semester, almost always the lower level one. I think it works out pretty well.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

My school offers "Shakespeare" -- that's it, and only offers it once every other spring. (I mix it up with about half Elizabethan and half Jacobean, and try to fit in something from each genre. Only one romance, though.) I was hired to teach Shakespeare, but I'm just hanging out 3/4 of the time, teaching gen ed and random other shit. If I could teach Shakespeare every semester, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. Even once a year would be a welcomed change. (That might actually happen when our medievalist retires. Until then, Shakespeare and Chaucer are rotated every other spring.) Next year, I'll be in a Shakespeare drought. I anticipate misery. I guess I'll just have to sneak it in to my gen ed classes.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Wow, only one Shakespeare class every two years? That's crazy (at least if it's required for the major, which I guess it might not be).

Flavia said...

My department used to offer Early Shakespeare and Late Shakespeare, but my colleague and I reorganized the offerings so that we now offer Comedies & Romances and Histories & Tragedies. Personally, I much prefer genre-based classes and think they're more coherent for students and give them more of a sense of mastery. (But that may have to do with where we offer the Shakespeare in our curriculum: it's a required course for majors, designed for the sophomore/junior level, and emphasizes close reading).

I don't follow the genre prescriptions too rigidly, though. Sometimes I teach only comedies or only tragedies, and other times I throw in a play of two that technically belongs in the other class (I'm teaching Cymbeline in H&T this semester). I like to keep shuffling the deck.

We also have an "Advanced Shakespeare" class on the books, intended as senior research capstone (whose topic/focus would vary by semester), and we're talking about adding a Gen Ed Shakespeare course, designed for freshmen or nonmajors, which would be a mix of genres.

But. . . until we replace my recently-departed colleague, neither of those classes is getting taught.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Yes, it's a terrible idea only having it every other year. It is one of the early British requirements -- that is, you can choose Shakespeare OR Chaucer, and then that early British requirement is filled. As I said, Chaucer might be dropped. It typically has very low enrollment (like, 4 people), while Shakespeare currently has 15 in it. And actually, I'm running two Shakespeare classes right now -- one honors (so it runs like a special topic) and the other regular Shakespeare, and I have 7 in honors. So there is interest and desire to take Shakespeare, but it's just not supported by my school. Of course, our majors are 75% business, nursing, or education, so the liberal arts majors are few and far between. We only have 25 English majors right now, and 9 will be graduating. Sad.