THTREMUS 399 - Topics in Drama
Section: 012 The Hamlet Semester
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Theatre and Drama (THTREMUS)
Department: Music: Theatre and Drama
May be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Shakespeare’s Hamlet occupies a unique position within the cultural memory of the western world — and indeed within the imagination of the global intellectual community. This course aims to investigate why this should be so. Beginning with a close reading of the play as a literary icon, but also as an opportunity for creative performance, we will consider the allure this masterwork continues to have for developing an understanding of the nature of tragedy. In doing so, we will focus our attention on the historical and political conditions that determine competing and compelling traditions of interpretation and performance.

But the focus of this course is by no means limited to a discovery of literary and dramatic perspectives, as valuable as these may be to any introduction to the questions at hand. Shakespeare’s work has been a point of departure for any number of interdisciplinary studies, embracing areas as various as philosophy, new historicism, jurisprudence, psychology, politics, psychology, geography, feminism, and the history of art (the list is not complete). The year 1564, the date of Shakespeare’s birth, also marks the birth of Galileo and the maturity of Cervantes, as well as the death of another remarkable figure of this historical moment, Michelangelo. Such artists and thinkers helped to shape the very notion of the word “renaissance,” at the same time that their work urges us to rethink the origins of what we mean by a term as complex as “early modernism.”

In order to understand “what happens in Hamlet,” this course aims to configure the play within the artistic and intellectual crosscurrents not only of its time but of our own. Readings will be rich and varied, with selections drawn from Aristotle (The Poetics), Machiavelli (The Prince), Voltaire (he thought the play was “vile” and “vulgar”), biography (Greenblatt’s Will in the World), Freud, Galileo, art criticism, and discussions of the construction of tragedy from Shakespeare to the present.

What is the underlying rationale for this course? Simply put, the opportunity it offers students to consider a high point in our common cultural literacy and legacy, and the way that legacy continues to shape and enlighten our understanding of the historical present.

Course Requirements:

Students will be asked to write weekly response papers and also to complete a major term project based on performance, research and interpretation.

Intended Audience:

No data submitted

Class Format:


THTREMUS 399 - Topics in Drama
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MW 12:00PM - 1:30PM
003 (REC)
M 1:30PM - 4:00PM
Note: meet with WS 313
007 (SEM)
TuTh 1:00PM - 3:00PM
Note: meets with RCHUMS 281.001 in Keene Aud.
008 (SEM)
MWF 1:00PM - 3:00PM
MWF 1:00PM - 3:00PM
Note: class meets in Keene Aud with RCHUMS 482.001
012 (REC)
Tu 4:00PM - 7:00PM
017 (REC)
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Note: MEETS W/ENGLISH 346.001 TOPSY-TURVY: THE VICTORIAN WORLD OF GILBERT AND SULLIVAN Created in London between 1871 and 1896, the comic operas of W. S. Gilbert (librettist) and Arthur Sullivan (composer) have been widely performed for more than a century. This course introduces students to the late nineteenth-century context of Gilbert and Sullivan?s theatrical collaboration, focusing in particular on aspects of Victorian culture that they parodied through words and music. Each week we will read and discuss one of the ?Savoy? operas, mostly in chronological order, combining selected historical readings with analysis of literary, theatrical, and musical elements. We will also consider the award-winning film, ?Topsy-Turvy,? and attend a live performance presented by the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Throughout the semester we will reflect on the critical and creative possibilities of parody. This course fulfills the Poetry requirement for English majors. It is open to students across all departments. Previous experience with performance is welcome, but not required. Course requirements include regular attendance and active participation in class, weekly short response papers, a longer critical essay (written in several drafts), a creative response, and a reflection on the final writing portfolio. No mid-term, no final exam.
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780393929584
Hamlet, Author: William Shakespeare ; edited by Robert S. Miola., Publisher: W. W. Norton 1st ed. 2010
ISBN: 9780802132758
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead, Author: by Tom Stoppard ; consulting editor, Henry Popkin., Publisher: Grove Press Special ed 1967
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