Sunday, April 20, 2014

Symposium: Shakespeare and Gender

Hello, all. The time has come! Wednesday is your Symposium, a 45-50 minute conversation/debate run by you. I will be listening, taking notes, and occasionally intervening to prompt the group on to the next agenda item (below). I will also give a response at the end. But I won't be contributing to the discussion itself. At this point, you don't need me!

Remember, this is an important event. If you've been participating in conversation throughout the semester, great: the Symposium is a chance to finish strong. If you have not been participating, this is an opportunity to do at least some damage-control. One thing is certain: no one should let the Symposium go by without contributing. Everyone should strive to speak at some point or other.

The topic you guys chose in our last class is "Shakespeare and Gender." Below is a loose agenda to help you prepare for the Symposium and to assist in guiding you through the discussion. Remember to have this agenda handy at the Symposium itself, either on a smartphone or computer, or printed out.

(1) You might want to start by generating a list of plays and sonnets that you feel offer important case studies in Shakespeare's treatment of gender.

(2) With this raw material in place, consider this: does Shakespeare seem to have a single, overarching approach to, or view of, gender? Or does he treat the subject in different ways at different times without a single conceptual anchor? (Make reference to specific plays and sonnets, of course.)

(3) Open up the conversation even more now. Having discussed what Shakespeare thinks about gender, consider how Shakespeare thinks with gender. That is to say, how does the theme of gender allow Shakespeare to raise questions about other things, such as political hierarchy, law, and ethics; philosophical questions about agency and selfhood; or theater itself?

(4) Finally, and taking into consideration your wide-ranging discussion up to this point, how is Shakespeare's treatment of gender relevant to our own time? How can we describe this relationship between the art of the past and the social and political landscape of the present without being anachronistic and without being insensitive to both the connections and the differences between art and politics?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014