In this class we will focus on the many ways Shakespeare writes of love. In his comedies, tragedies, and late romances Shakespeare shows himself to be preeminent among English dramatists, giving voice to this transcendent emotion. “A lover’s eyes will gaze an eagle blind,” he says through his character Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost. “And when love speaks the voice of all the gods makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.” We will celebrate love, the most universal and desired of human experiences. And we will take this journey with a writer who created characters to live out the dream of love and who, through their creator, are given words and images to express the inexpressible. (A limited enrollment class)
The relation of the individual to society is the essential concern of the nineteenth-century novel. In "The Red and the Black", Stendhal justifies hypocrisy as a necessary mode of resistance to the oppression of the social codes in post-Napoleonic France. In "Bleak House", Dickens sees England’s Chancery Court not as an instrument of justice but as the epitome of the government’s torpor and corruption. However, he also sees in Esther Summerson a narrator who is at least the equal of the omniscient voice that otherwise seems to know everything—and Esther is capable of doing good in the world in a way that the big narrator is not. In "Crime and Punishment", Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov thinks the way to escape society is to transcend its laws. He learns, however, that crime doesn’t pay, but suffering does—suffering that is an essentially religious solution that Dickens flirts with and Stendhal never considers.
The best short stories leave you with a strong emotional response and a sense of awe at how quickly and masterfully a deft writer can create a world and connect you to its characters. What techniques help authors achieve these effects? And what, beyond word count, defines the unique, dynamic genre of the short story? How exactly does the length of a piece of writing connect to its expression as a work of art and our interpretation of it? In this course, we’ll consider “shortness” as a challenge authors undertake, investigating the ways they weave complex tales into brief, often pithy, masterpieces. Reading a global array of short stories, including selections from the U.S., Great Britain, Latin America, and Russia, we will also seek to understand the short story genre within its national traditions. What kinds of similarities and differences emerge when we make cross-cultural comparisons of 20th and 21st century short stories? We’ll investigate the ways genre and cultures converge to shape the stories we tell and the way we tell them.