Ben Jonson famously characterized Shakespeare as “not of an age, but for all time.” The truth of this sentiment is everywhere evident: Shakespeare is, by a colossal margin, the most widely-produced playwright in the world. New festivals devoted to his work spring up regularly, his plays are recurrently adapted into popular films, and the dispersal of his words and images into digital media increases by the week. It is no exaggeration to say that Shakespeare has never been more popular than he is now, and for a rather simple reason. No playwright—indeed no writer of any kind—has ever captured the depth and range and mystery of human experience with the acute insight and dazzling language of Shakespeare. Indeed, so fully and dynamically does Shakespeare render human behavior on stage that scholars still endlessly debate the meaning of his plays, finding within them a seemingly bottomless well of philosophical, political, and psychological insight. It is no wonder that Jan Kott, way back in the 60’s called Shakespeare “our contemporary.”
What is the Shakespeare Studies Minor?
The Shakespeare Minor at SOU provides a thorough, thoughtful overview of Shakespeare’s work. To know Shakespeare is not only to know a literary and theatrical genius but to possess a set of references and a reservoir of meanings that our culture continually draws on. Classes in Shakespeare Studies combine historical, literary, and performance analysis, examining a Shakespeare play as an historical artifact, a transhistorical text, and a script for contemporary performance.
The curriculum starts with an introductory course that explores the various ways of knowing and understanding the plays, centering on the question, “What does it mean to do Shakespeare?” The course prepares students for survey classes that canvass Shakespeare’s greatest plays and lead, in turn, to more specialized classes that immerse students in a single play or vigorously investigate a specific topic (recent offerings include “Shakespeare’s Problem Comedies” and “Post-Modern Shakespeare”). Electives such as “Shakespeare and Film” and “Shakespeare and Popular Culture” fill out the curriculum. Most classes make ample use of film and other visual media and take advantage of the productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Indeed, one class, the “Summer Shakespeare Intensive” is based entirely on OSF’s annual offerings. In addition, actors, directors, and dramaturgs from OSF are frequently guest speakers and occasionally even guest teachers. Students may also avail themselves of the 10,000 volume Margery Bailey Renaissance Collection in SOU’s Hannon Library, which encompasses both classic and cutting-edge works of Shakespearean scholarship.
What is This Minor Good For?
The Shakespeare Minor enriches and expands the curriculum of many academic programs. It is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing on the resources of seven departments, including English, Music, History, Art, and Emergent Media.
The Shakespeare Studies Minor also offers a head start toward further study in graduate school and/or toward careers in such fields as arts management, theater education, dramaturgy, media production, and all manner of creative professions.
In the end, Shakespeare Studies offers not only a body of knowledge but also an exhilarating learning experience, teaching students how to interpret complex texts and how to express those interpretations in words, images and performance. Our ultimate goal is to lead Shakespeare enthusiasts on an epic intellectual and creative journey, in which they explore the richest and deepest expressions of human experience ever rendered on page or stage.
For details on the courses required for the Shakespeare Studies minor, please click here.