Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Instructor: Ray Mize

shakespeare - invention of the human -- bookcover

This class is predicated upon the magnificent study by the preeminent scholar, Harold Bloom. In fact, the title of this class is the title of his book. Far better than I could ever express the central idea of this class, Bloom says:

In Shakespeare, characters develop rather than unfold, and they develop because they reconceive themselves. Sometimes this comes about because they overhear themselves talking, whether to themselves or others. Self-overhearing is their royal road to individuation, and no other writer, before or since Shakespeare, has accomplished so well the virtual miracle of creating utterly different yet self-consistent voices for his more than one hundred major characters and many hundreds of highly disctinctive minor personages.

The key words here are reconceive, self-overhearing, individuation. These are some of the key ideas we will be examining in the course of this semester. And why, you might ask, is this remotely significant here at the end of civilization. In an age when almost everything seems designed to take us out of ourselves--television, cell phones (phones in general), movies, earning a living--we need to be reminded of the inward nature of humankind. The truths, the values, even the great wisdoms of the world have been revealed by those who turned inward.

Perhaps this is why Bloom emphatically states: "Bardolatry, the worship of Shakespeare, ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is." In our politically correct age, an age in which truth takes a back row seat to what is socially acceptable, an age in which thinking has been marginalized, it is imperative that we at least develop an understanding of what it is to 'over-hear' oneself. And there is no better place to begin our examination of 'inwardness' than with the works of William Shakespeare.

The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind's reach; we cannot catch up to them. Shakespeare will go on explaining us, in part because he invented us....

Required Text:

The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edition (Houghton Mifflin)

Supplemental Text:

Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (Riverhead Books, 1998)

Course Requirements:

Three analytical papers
Final project

Schedule: Refer to the written syllabus provided on the first day of classes.

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Last Update: September 19, 2005