English 24

Freshman Seminar: Hamlet

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2009 Paley, Morton D.
Paley, Morton D.
W 2-4 (Aug 26 to Oct. 14 only) Rm L45, Res Hall Unit III on Durant between Telegraph & Dana

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Shakespeare, W.: Hamlet


Hamlet is perhaps the greatest, the most challenging, and at times the most frustrating play in the English language. In this course we will concentrate intensively on the text (which will be the only assigned reading). We’ll consider questions of interpretation, motivation, staging, and poetics, among others. Some questions we’ll address are:

Does Hamlet think the flesh is “sullied” or “solid”?

Did Gertrude know about Claudius’ murder of old Hamlet?

When Hamlet tells Ophelia “get thee to a nunnery,” does he mean a brothel?

Is Polonius’ advice to Laertes sage or silly?

Does Hamlet delay? Does he have an Oedipus complex? How old is he?

How do we go about answering questions like these?

The only requisite for enrollment is that you be a freshman. No previous knowledge of Shakespeare is expected.

During the course of our half-semester, each of you will do a short (10-15 minute) seminar presentation. (Or, if you wish, a 20-30 minute presentation in collaboration with another student).  There’ll be a list of possible subjects for you to choose from, and we’ll have a conference beforehand. Then you’ll do a 1-page write-up of what you presented, and I’ll return it to you with written comments. By meeting 6 you’ll write a short (1500 word essay). It may grow out of your initial presentation, or be on an entirely different subject. There will be ample time for you to confer with me on this. I’ll return your essay with my comments at meeting seven.

Please bring the text with you every time.

This seminar will meet the first eight weeks of the semester, beginning August 26, 2009 and ending October 14, 2009.

This course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required to complete the English major.

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