You are on page 1of 5

#MeToo Shakespeare 1

Lit 179AB: #MeToo Shakespeare


Prof. Ambereen Dadabhoy
email: dadabhoy@g.hmc.edu
phone: 72614
office: Parson 1268
office hours: M/W 10-11, 1-3, or by appointment

Course Description:
Founded in 2006 by activist and community
organizer, Tarana Burke, the “Me Too” movement
has cultivated “empathy and empowerment” for
women who have experienced sexual harassment and
sexual violence. It became viral, however, in 2017
when prominent women in Hollywood began to share
their stories of sexual exploitation and retaliation from the Hollywood (male) elite and then
rapidly spread to various institutions and industries. Amid these very contemporary and pressing
concerns, where then, might Shakespeare fit in? We know that sexism and patriarchy were not
invented in the 21st century, they are seemingly, as old as human history and communities.
Taking that as our starting point, in this course we will examine how Shakespeare’s work
engages in concerns that we identify as being germane to those of #MeToo. Some of the
questions we will be asking during the course include: how does an early modern playwright
depict and interrogate notions of sexual violence, exploitation, and coercion? How does his work
offer opportunities to intervene in a hyper-patriarchal and masculinist society? What
opportunities do his plays suggest for women’s power and agency? Is there a way that we can
use Shakespeare’s plays to comment on the sexual politics of our own era? Some of the texts we
will read are, Titus Andronicus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, The
Taming of the Shew, and Measure for Measure.

Course Objectives:

In this course you will:


 gain familiarity with a broad range of Shakespearean drama.
 be exposed to a variety of theoretical approaches to literary study.
 analyze the literature through the above mentioned methodologies.
 critically interpret texts through oral presentations and written assignments.
 craft written and oral presentations that engage in public-facing humanities.

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; however, if you have another edition
of Shakespeare that you prefer, please make sure that it has act, scene, and line numbers.

I reserve the right to change or reassign the readings as required. I might also add some
readings should news events occur that are germane to our inquiry.

1
#MeToo Shakespeare 2

The following texts are available on Sakai:

John Berger, Ways of Seeing


Lynda Boose, “Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds”
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin / White Masks
Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness
bell hooks, “feminism: a transformational politic”
bell hooks, “the oppositional gaze”
Kate Manne, Down Girl
Francesca Royster, “White-Limed Walls”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

The following can be found on YouTube


Ways of Seeing BBC program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1GI8mNU5Sg

Attendance: This is a seminar course 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 grade. You
are allowed one unexcused and un-penalized absence over the course of the semester.
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.

Assignments:
Writing: We will be experimenting with writing in this course. You will write one traditional
close reading paper (1000-1200 words); turn that paper into a public humanities article; response
posts (on Sakai blog) to five online articles of your choice that are on our topic; and a final
“conference” on our topic.
For your papers, you will have a 48 hour no questions asked “grace-period,” on any one deadline
of your choice. You just have to let me know that you’ll be using that option, no reasons need to
be given.
1 close reading papers (1000-1200 words): 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

2
#MeToo Shakespeare 3

class, so that you gain familiarity with this necessary skill. You are also permitted to use one of
the theoretical texts through which to analyze the primary text.

Response Blog posts: You will be required to write a response blog post every other week on
some kind of popular/public writing that takes up the themes of this course, broadly interpreted.
Examples of such writing are: NYT OpEds, literary sites, Medium posts, podcasts or any site
where you see authors engaging in deeply critical ways with contemporary social issues. If you
have trouble finding such sources, please come see me. These responses should be about 250-
300 words in length.

Public Humanities project: using your popular/public research as a model, you will transform
your close reading paper (or something new) into your own public facing humanistic research.
You will use one or more of Shakespeare’s plays and tie that into a contemporary issue or
problem that engages with the topic of the course, #MeToo Shakespeare. The length of this
project will depend upon the publication model that you have selected. The minimum length will
be at least 750 words.

Group presentation: You will be responsible for leading discussion one time during the
semester on one of our plays. The aim of this presentation is for you to show how the play is
connected to our broader topic, #MeToo, sex, and gendered violence. Your responsibility is to
expose how the play engages with these themes, supports or rejects them, and relate how the
theoretical approaches we have adopted allow us to further interrogate the play. I will provide
more detailed instructions for the content of your presentation via Sakai. The presentation will be
20 minutes long, so please use your time wisely and prepare ahead of time.

Conference: This is a collaborative assignment. On the last day of our class, we will host a
conference on #MeToo Shakespeare, where you will each present your research in conference
format. You will be expected to field questions on your presentations from the class and to show
your knowledge about your topic and subject. Further information and instructions will be
provided as we get closer to the end of the semester.
Grading: Your course grade will be determined as follows:
Participation 20%
Papers 40% (close reading 20% and public humanities project 20%)
Presentation 10%
Blog posts: 10%
Conference: 20%
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.

3
#MeToo Shakespeare 4

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: https://medium.com/@lportwoodstacer/how-to-email-your-
professor-without-being-annoying-af-cf64ae0e4087 - .wy6jv12bt

Course Schedule:

Week 1 9/6
Introductions, Syllabus review, John Berger, Poetry review

Week 2 9/13
The Taming of the Shrew; blog post

Week 3 9/20
Boose “Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds”, bell hooks, “feminism a
transformational politic”

Week 4 9/27
Titus Andronicus; blog post

Week 5 10/4
Royster “White-Limed Walls”, bell hooks The Oppositional Gaze, Fanon Black
Skin White Masks

Week 6 10/11
A Midsummer Night’s Dream; blog post

Week 7 10/18
Solnit, Men Explain Things To Me; Kim F. Hall Things of Darkness

close reading paper due by 11:59 pm

Week 8 10/25
Much Ado About Nothing; blog post

Week 9 11/1
Manne, Down Girl (Intro, Chs 1 & 2)

Week 10 11/8
Measure for Measure; blog post

Week 11 11/15

4
#MeToo Shakespeare 5

Manne, Down Girl (Chapter 6); Kimberlé Crenshaw Intersectionality Matters


(episode 4); Koritha Mitchell, “Identifying White Mediocrity and Know Your
Place Aggression”

Week 12 11/22
TBD; public facing humanities project due by 11:59 pm

Week 13 11/29
Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 14 12/6
Peer Review, Conclusions

Week 15 12/13
“#MeToo Shakespeare” Conference