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Race, Gender, and Class in Renaissance Drama 1

Lit 179N: Race, Gender,

and Class in Renaissance
Prof. Ambereen Dadabhoy
phone: 77346
office: Parson 1284
office hours: M/W 10-11, 3-
4, or by appointment

Course Description:
How does art reflect life? How is art implicated in the negative aspects of life, such as racism,
sexism, and economic disparity? Can we trace the historical roots of our ideas about race,
gender, and class? In this course we will attempt to answer these questions through the
examination of literature during a period where questions about race, gender, and class were
fluid and unfixed. Early modern English drama can provide us with a lens into the past that lets
us see how literature not only reflects the fears desires, and anxieties of the past, but also how it
might have helped shape the future. This course will examine English Renaissance plays within
the historical, cultural, and political context that shaped them. At the same time we will read
contemporary theories of race, religion, and class that will help us see how the past has shaped
our current circumstances. Some of the questions we will ask in this course include, what can we
learn about the early modern period through these plays? Do the plays interrogate the dominant
power structure or reinforce the status quo? How does looking at the past through the lens of the
present not only open up new ways of understanding history and literature but also new ways of
understanding ourselves?

Course Objectives:

In this course you will:

ü gain familiarity with a broad range of early modern English drama.
ü be exposed to a variety of theoretical approaches to literary study.
ü analyze the literature through the above mentioned methodologies.
ü critically interpret texts through oral presentations and written assignments.

Course Texts:

All of these texts are available at Huntley Bookstore. You may buy them independently;
however, please purchase the edition that I have assigned, since we will need to all be on the
same page (only literally) during class discussion.

Thomas Middleton Four Plays, ISBN: 9781408156582

The Island Princess, John Fletcher, ISBN: 9781904271536
Othello, William Shakespeare, ISBN:9780312398989

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Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare, 9780199536108

John Webster and John Ford, ISBN: 9780141392233
The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe, ISBN: 9781408144893

The following texts are available on Sakai:

bell hooks, “feminism: a transformational politic”

bell hooks, “the oppositional gaze”
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin / White Masks
Linda Thuiwai Smith, “Imperialism, History, Writing and Theory”
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
Kimberlé Crenshaw “Mapping the Margins”
Rebecca Solnit “Men Explain Things to Me”
Raymond Williams, “Class”
Selected essays on Representation and Culture

The following can be found on YouTube

Ways of Seeing BBC program:

You will be listening to two podcasts, which can be found here:

Attendance: This is a small discussion seminar and its success is dependent upon your
attendance and participation. All absences must be accompanied by a valid excuse either from
DOS or via communication with me. Several unexcused absences will result in a lower final
Participation: This seminar will be successful only through student participation. One of the
goals of this class is to generate discussion which will help not only to increase your
comprehension and appreciation of this literature but also to develop your critical perspective.
We can only do so through a rich and thorough conversation that involves everyone.
Reading: You are required to complete the assigned reading before our meeting time. You
should also bring your text to all of our class meetings, as we will frequently be referring to the
text. Not reading or bringing your text to class will count as an absence. In addition I reserve
the right to give pop quizzes, so you must come to class prepared. Your quiz grade will be
calculated into your overall participation grade.
In this course you will be reading material that will be challenging. In order to effectively read
and process these texts, you are required to annotate them. Annotating a text means that you
are reading with a purpose. To use annotation effectively, you need to consider the following:
what is the central claim or argument being made by the text; what kind of evidence is offered in
support of the claim; who is the audience; are emotional or logical appeals being made; how is
the argument structured; does that structure effectively communicate and support the claim; are

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there moments when the claim is either reversed or undermined; finally, have you understood the
argument. While reading you will also want to pay special attention to how language is used and
to make note of any sections that are unclear to you. Always remember to circle and look up any
unfamiliar vocabulary.

Assignments: Writing assignments are due on the due date. The assignments for this course are
as follows:
2 close reading papers (3pp): The aim of this paper is to close read a portion of one of our
primary texts. Close reading is a tool that literary scholars use to analyze and interpret a text. The
way a passage is composed, the choice of words used by an author, certain images and figurative
language, are all codes that help us decipher a text and arrive at meaning. You will receive a
handout explaining how to close read more fully, and we will do a close reading in class, so that
you gain familiarity with this necessary skill.

10 minute presentation: You will be responsible for leading discussion one time during the
semester. You will format your discussion using one of the following “sign-posts”: textual
analysis (choose a passage and analyze it for / with the class), out on a limb interpretation
(grounding your interpretation in the text, see how far you can push your analytical skills, or
overall interpretation (offer some conclusions you’ve come to about the text or your topic). You
will end your presentation by considering some questions that you have about the text that you
haven’t yet been able to answer. The presentation will be 10 minutes long, so please use your
time wisely. You should also post your questions in the Forum of our Sakai site, so that students
can access them before your presentation.

Blog posts: You will be required to write a blog post every other week on either a literary or
theoretical work that we will have read. Blogs require a different kind of writing: informal
perhaps, but content rich. Blogs are also the place for you to be able to articulate interpretations
of reactions and don’t require the use of outside evidence. This is the space for you to work out
your opinions and reactions to our readings. They are also public to your peers in the course, so
write with that audience in mind. Successful blog posts are at least 300 words in length.

Historical project: For this assignment, you will explore an issue that arises in one of the plays,
cross-dressing in The Roaring Girl, for example, and look for primary documents from the 16th
and 17th centuries, either on EEBO or in Special Collections at Honnold Mudd Library. Looking
at these documents in tandem with the play, write a short (4-5pp) essay in which you introduce
your source, explain its arguments, and show how those are challenged or reinforced in the play.
This assignment will expose you to some of the characteristics of early modern printed materials
as well as show how literary cultural production might be rooted in the moment of its creation.
More specific instruction and format will follow.

Final research paper (7pp): This is a collaborative group writing assignment. Choosing one of
the dramatic texts, groups will write their own introduction to the text using the theoretical
readings as interpretive lenses. More information about this assignment will be circulated closer
to the due date.
Grading: Your course grade will be determined as follows:

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Participation 15%
Papers 60% (short response 10% each, creative project 20%, and final paper 20%)
Presentation 10%
Blog posts: 15%
Electronics: I would prefer if you took notes without using a computer. Please try to bring a
hard copy of the text and a notebook and writing tool. While I will not ban laptops, I should not
find your doing any work other than work for the course on them. If I do, it will result in a
lowered course grade. As for cell phones, you should mute or turn them off while in class. If
you are texting in class you will be asked to leave.
Email: You may communicate with me via email, and I hope that you frequently do so (in
addition to coming to see me during my office hours). Here is a helpful resource that you should
consult before emailing me:
Campus Demonstrations: The mission of Harvey Mudd College is to prepare leaders who
understand the impact of their work on society. Our institution is a vibrant part of that society,
and we might be affected by the violence in our world and the tumult of this political season.
Social justice demonstrations are likely to occur at the Claremont Colleges this year, and we
understand that some students may wish to take part in these activities. Therefore, we are willing
to accommodate your reasonable participation in such events, so long as you coordinate with
your instructor in advance, ideally at least 24 hours before the affected class meeting time or due
Accommodations: All information and documentation of disability is confidential. It is the
policy of The Claremont Colleges to accommodate students with temporary or permanent
disabilities. Any student with a documented disability who requires reasonable accommodations
should contact Deborah Kahn, Coordinator for Student Disability Resources at (909) 607-
3148 or, as soon as possible. Students from the other Claremont Colleges
should contact their home college's disability officer. All information and documentation of
disability is confidential.
Title IX: Harvey Mudd College strives to maintain an environment for students, faculty, and
staff that is free of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. All members of
the College community should be aware that the College is prepared to take prompt remedial
action to prevent and address such behavior and remedy its effects. If you have questions or
would like to talk to someone, please contact Associate Dean of Students and Title IX
Coordinator Deborah Kahn at or 909.607.3148.

Course Schedule:
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Monday Wednesday
Week 1 August 29 August 31
Syllabus Review
Close reading assignment
Week 2 September 5 September 7
Methodologies: Representation of women & gender
Ways of Seeing on YouTube
“Representation” and “Culture” Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to
Raymond Williams, “Class,” Me
(Optional, chapter 2 from WoS on Sakai)
Week 3 September 12 September 14
Titus Andronicus Titus Andronicus

Week 4 September 19 September 21

bell hooks “feminism” and “the gender and race
oppositional gaze” Titus continued
Close reading due by midnight
Week 5 September 26 September 28
gender, religion, and class The Jew of Malta
The Jew of Malta

Week 6 October 3 October 5

Braudel, Mediterranean The Jew of Malta

Week 7 October 10 October 12

Gender, race, religion, and class Othello
Othello Close reading due by midnight

Week 8 October 17 October 19

Fall Break: no class Frantz Fanon, Black Skin / White Masks

Week 9 October 24 October 26

podcasts “Othello Was my Othello
Grandfather,” and “American Moor”
Week 10 October 31 November 2
Gender crossings The Roaring Girl
The Roaring Girl

Week 11 November 7 November 9

Butler, “Gender Trouble” HSA Advising: no class
Historical project due by midnight
Week 12 November 14 November 16
The Roaring Girl Women, race, and class
The White Devil
Week 13 November 21 November 23

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The White Devil Thanksgiving Break: no class

Week 14 November 28 November 30
Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins” The Island Princess
Thuiwai Smith, “Imperialism, History,
Writing and Theory”

Week 15 December 5 December 7

The Island Princess Conclusions
Week 16 December 12 December 14
Finals week Finals week
Final paper due by midnight on
Friday, December 16

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