Monday, March 24, 2014

Class Cancelled, Wednesday 3/26

Just a reminder that we won't be having class this Wednesday evening (March 26). I'll be in New York boring everyone about Richard II. See you the following week (April 2) for Anthony and Cleopatra!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Final Project (Due: Friday, April 25, before midnight)

Final Project, Option 1: Research Paper

The Research Paper should be 5-6 pages long and should give a historically or culturally contextualized reading of one or two of the plays we deal with this semester. The Sonnets are fair game, as well

Here are the three general guidelines you need to follow if you want to do "well" (i.e. B or better).

I. ARGUMENT: Your first paragraph must present a clear and focused argument and give me a complete and accurate sense of what the next 5 pages will undertake. You must say what you will do, and then, of course, you must actually do it. Remember that no matter what your argument is, the body of the essay will be devoted in some way, shape, or form to providing evidence from the plays/sonnets to support that claim. This means you must develop an argument that is possible to support. Go for something manageable and specific. Don't make sweeping, hyperbolic claims about showing "the true meaning" of the text(s) you're dealing with. And don't make an argument that's flimsy and general: i.e. "So-and-so draws on the historical context of such-and-such to create a poem that's truly emotionally intense" OR "By attending to the historical situation at the time such-and-such was written we can discover Shakespeare's true intentions [etc etc]." This won't fly. Be specific, be focused, be rigorous.

II. RESEARCH AND DOCMENTATION: In order to bring historical or cultural context into your analysis, you'll have to do some research. That is, you'll have to educate yourself on early modern culture, the literary and theater scene, and/or major historical events. For this, two things are crucial:

(1) No more Wikipedia. No Encyclopedia Britannica. There's a time and place for that stuff--this isn't it. You now need to go the library, look up books, and pull them off the shelf; or, search up articles on the MLA Bibliography or Project Muse and pull them off the shelf or download them. If you don't know how to do this, it's your responsibility to get someone from the library staff to teach you. Don't be shy. That's what they're there for.

(2) You must properly document your essay. What I mean by this is, when you give dates, outline a political situation, quote a historical study, etc., etc., you need to insert a note with a reference to the source of that information. There are two acceptable formats to follow: MLA style and Chicago style. You can access handbooks to both styles at the library or online through the "Electronic Resources" section of the library website. Take a moment to look into this; figure how to do a footnote or endnote; figure out what info needs to be listed and in what order. If you don't have proper documentation, you lose points; if you do have proper documentation but the sources you're citing are not scholarly books and articles, but non-peer-reviewed websites and encyclopedias, you lose points. This is crucial, so take it seriously. An hour or so familiarizing yourself with MLA or Chicago documentation style and one or two trips to the library and you'll be fine. I should see at least two secondary sources on your Works Cited page--these can be history books or literary-critical studies--and I should see clearly in the essay how you're using those sources (i.e. for historical/cultural context, as something to argue against, etc.)

III. WRITING: Your writing must be free from errors in spelling and grammar and punctuation. If you're concerned about this, run a draft by someone at the Writing Center on the ground floor of the Auditorium Building.

(1) Write an essay about Shakespeare's treatment of gender in relation to Queen's Elizabeth's reign or some other aspect early modern history or culture. You may focus on either one or two texts

(2) Choose one or two plays and write an essay that shows how they are products of an increasingly global culture. You may focus on early modern exploration, colonialism, or economic and cultural relations with the East.

(3) Write an essay which makes an argument about the nature of Shakespeare's interest in Law (or Justice). Focus on two plays.

(4) Write a theater-historical essay on one of Shakespeare's plays. How does said play reflect some aspect of early modern theatrical culture (the requirements of certain performance spaces, commercial trends in the theater business, Shakespeare's company being taken under royal patronage in 1603, certain acting styles, different theater audiences).

(5) Choose one play and analyze it in the context of a historical event of your choice.

(6) Write an essay that looks at Protestantism as a source for a key theme or tension in one or two plays of your choice.

(7) Write a historically grounded essay on homoeroticism in one or two of Shakespeare's plays or sonnets.

(8) Choose one play and analyze it in the context of one sixteenth or seventeenth-century philosopher of your choice.

Final Project, Option 2: Directing Project

This assignment is both creative and interpretive. Indeed, it aims to heighten our appreciation for the fact that creative and artistic practice is a form of applied critical thinking and, vice versa, that critical thinking can and should be creative.

A successful Directing Project (i.e. B or better) must be grounded in rigorous interpretive engagement with the text (which should be communicated to me in the written portion of the assignment) and executed with genuine creativity (which should be communicated to me in a serious and engaging final aesthetic product).

Here’s how it goes.

PERFORMANCE COMPONENT: For this project, you will play the role of director. You must conceive, develop, plan, and execute your own performance of a scene of your choice from a play of your choice. There are no qualitative or quantitative requirements on this front. You can choose a scene, a part of a scene, whatever (but please don’t do “To be or not to be.”). As long as you successfully present it as a coherent unit of performance and show me that you've put serious critical and interpretive thought into it, you’re doing your job.

You may enlist friends or family members as performers; you may also perform yourself, but it’s not required. Just make sure the people you involve are up for the task and capable of memorizing lines. It goes without saying that good acting makes for a stronger final product.

The performance must be filmed. (You're welcome to use a phone.)

WRITTEN COMPONENT: Along with the film you must submit a detailed, 3-page “Performance Description.” This document should describe the choices you made (in terms of performance, scenography, casting, soundscape, etc.) and how they create a certain desired effect or contribute to a certain interpretation. I can't emphasize enough how important this part of the assignment is. The Performance Description is the only record I will have of the critical-thinking process you went through in order to arrive at your creative decisions. It's the part of the assignment that puts it on equal footing with the Research Paper in terms of intellectual rigor. So make sure you take the thinking process--and the Performance Description that records it--seriously. Doing so will also, inevitably, lead to a better aesthetic product. The “Performance Description” should be written in a formal and precise manner like a short essay.

HOW TO SUBMIT: As with all our assignments, the Directing Project must be emailed to me by the due date. The easiest way to go about this is to upload your film to YouTube and email me the link (don’t set the film to “private”; I won’t be able to view it). Put your performance description in the body of the same email. (I suggest you compose it in Word to make sure it's the right length and then paste it in.) If you prefer to embed your film in a blog or upload it to some other web platform and then send me the link to that, go right ahead. Don’t send me a video file as an attachment, though—too many potential technical difficulties.