Week 1

Reading Assignment: Read The Comedy of Errors, and additional readings on poetic meter, early modern and modern.

George Gascoigne, “Certayne Notes of Instruction
George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, Book II, chs. 1-10
Jeff Dolven, “Tudor Versification and the Rise of Iambic Pentameter
Russ MacDonald, “Shakespeare’s Verse

Week 2

Reading Assignment:  Read Love’s Labour’s Lost. We will turn our attention to questions of rhetoric, which is staged in so many varieties across the social landscape of the play. Excerpts from George Puttenham and Thomas Wilson will provide some background for Shakespeare’s management of the levels of style and the techne of decorum. (It never hurts to get a little background on these writers; you can look them up in the ODNB.) Please also read Richard Lanham’s chapter on “The Divisions of Rhetoric,” pp. 163-180 in his A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Walter Ong’s “Tudor Writers on Rhetoric” is a useful, optional supplement. Questions about the play that might detain us include its ring structure (does that have any relation to Comedy of Errors?), the public and the private, time, and genre (especially the place of lyric); in each case, we will ask what they do to the grain of the language.

George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, Book III, chs. 4-6
Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique, 95-99
Richard Lanham, “The Divisions of Rhetoric
Walter Ong, “Tudor Writings on Rhetoric

Rhetorical terms for the week: syncope, synaeresis, synalepha, isocolon.

Week 3

Reading Assignment: Read Richard II. Our question is still, as ever, how to talk about what Shakespeare sounds like; but our approach this time will be to his powers of figuration. The question what does a metaphor mean is inevitable, and we can equally well ask how does a metaphor mean. But we might also wonder, what does a metaphor sound like? The play develops some extraordinarily elaborate conceits, and we’ll want to pay attention to those; I hope some (like the mirror contested by Bolingbroke and Richard, or Richard’s little world in prison, or the queen’s meditation on her grief) will be nominated for emphasis. The play is full of motifs and passing gestures, too, which might well attract our attention.

We will take our account of figure partly from contemporary sources, Puttenham yet again, and also Henry Peacham’s Garden of Eloquence. As modern guides I have chosen a couple of mid-century theorists, Roman Jakobson (who has already come up) and Kenneth Burke. Jakobson’s “Two Aspects of Language” is a classic essay about metaphor and metonymy; “Linguistics and Poetics” is deep background to the question of figuration. It’s a lot, and not easy; read the Burke, the “Two Aspects,” and “Linguistics and Poetics” in that order if you are pressed, though they are all worth our time.

Thomas Peacham, The Garden of Eloquence, 1-20
George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, Book III, chs. 7-10, 17-18
Roman Jakobson, “Linguistics and Poetics
Roman Jakobson, “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances
Kenneth Burke, “Four Master Tropes

Rhetorical terms for the week: metaphor, metonymy, allegory, catechresis.

Week 4

Reading: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Our project this week is to add to our set of tools and concepts for analysis, which we have taken mostly from the tradition in which Shakespeare himself was trained, some of the digital resources available for working with electronic texts of the plays. I have gathered a lightly annotated list of resources here. These are often the tools of so-called “distant reading”; we will want to think about how turning something like a radio telescope to the text of Shakespeare’s play (and plays) might affect the ordinary ear. There would be an argument for leaving these tools to the end of the course, after we have thoroughly immersed ourselves in the rhetorical, prosodic, and poetic culture of the work; instead, I thought we might try them out early, and see how they might be integrated.

Let’s all read two articles that explore some techniques for using digital tools with Shakespeare’s plays:

Daniel Shore, “Shakespeare’s Constructicon

Jonathan Hope and Michael Witmore, “The Language of Macbeth

Read them, however, for inspiration; what will really be useful is to experiment with these tools, and see what you discover. If you are presenting a passage, please so some digital work on it (or do some digital exploring, and use that to choose your passage), and be prepared to talk about how it participates in the kind of patterns that such work can discover (whether it is typical or singular). If you are not presenting a passage, please come all the same with one finding from your explorations. If you have images, screenshots or what have you, that you would like to show to the class, email them to me ahead of time and I can project them.

Below are a few more resources, just in case you’re curious. I’ve had some help in assembling all this from the great Matthew Harrison, late of our department, and I include an article of his below, too.

Jonathan Hope and Michael Witmore, “The Very Large Textual Object: A Prosthetic Reading of Shakespeare

Jonathan Hope and Michael Witmore, “The Hundredth Psalm to the Tune of Green Sleeves

Matthew Harrison, “Desire is Pattern

Michael Witmore’s blog, Wine Dark Sea, is also full of interesting proposals; see especially the post, “The Ancestral Text.”

Rhetorical terms: hypotaxis, parataxis, antimetabole, anadiplosis

Week 5

Reading: Henry IV Part 1. Our topic this week will be Shakespeare’s language of character. You will have encountered, in passing, in Hope and Witmore’s Macbeth article, the idea that in the middle phase of his career Shakespeare is a playwright of many styles, parceled out among his characters; and that in his later plays, those styles tend to converge toward a single style of the play itself. We will have occasion to test the second part of that claim as the semester proceeds. For now, our business is with those many characters and how they sound. Can we develop a taxonomy of different styles within the play? Do they map onto the dramatis personae, exactly, approximately, etc.? Or not? How good are the various tools we have been gathering—prosody and rhetorical analysis, computational stylistics—at discriminating among different characters. And of course, what is a character? What is its relation to a subject? Do characters produce rhetoric (prosody, etc.), or the reverse?

Two principle readings will help us think these matters through. The first is the section “From Actors to Characters” from Mieke Bal’s Narratology, a structuralist approach to the problem; the other, the introduction to Elizabeth Fowler’s Literary Character.

Mieke Bal, “From Actors to Characters
Elizabeth Fowler, “The Arguments of Person

You might also have a look at Christy Desmet’s “Character,” a handbook essay that surveys the question in Shakespeare studies and explores possibilities that will recall us to last week’s discussion of digital methods. Speaking of which, please keep exploring those as you find them relevant. They may afford interesting stimulus or corroboration for just about every question we will ask in this course. (Also distraction, misdirection etc.? But there’s only one way to find out!)

Rhetorical terms for the week: hypophora, paradox, polysyndeton, zeugma.

Week 6

Reading: Hamlet. Read the whole play, though we’ll likely spend most of our time on the first three acts. The play will give us a chance to test our powers of linguistic perception and description on a range of idiolects that includes, of course, the new ways that Hamlet himself talks to himself and to others. Our particular focus over the two weeks before the break will be on the history of the language: on Wednesday, its words; the week after that, its syntax. How does Shakespeare’s language tell time? Or times? Which is to say, how does it exemplify the state of the language ca. 1601;  but also, and more interestingly, what other times does it inhabit? When does it sound old-fashioned, when avant-garde; when are characters (scenes, lines) in sync with one another, and when is the play temporally out of joint with itself? Of particular interest will be Hamlet himself, his life and times.

To help us with the lexical side of the question, the first chapter of Lucy Munro’s Archaic Style in English Literature is an excellent survey of some of the conceptual challenges of recognizing and accounting for archaism. Terttu Nevalainen’s chapter on early modern lexis and semantics, from the Cambridge History of the English Language, is long and extremely detailed, so read around in it, bearing down where you’re interested, skimming where you’re not. (Here’s the index to the whole volume, which may help you navigate it.) Optional but interesting is the first chapter of Judith Anderson’s Words that Matter, which has lots to chew on in re. words as words.

Munro, “Conceptualizing Archaism
Nevalainen, “Early Modern English Lexis and Semantics
Anderson, “Frozen Words

Rhetorical terms for the week: asyndeton, hendiadys (a signature of Hamlet), euphuism, antistasis.

Week 7

Reading assignment: Hamlet. We will continue our discussion of the play with respect to the history of the language, taking our cue, this time, from syntax. The readings should help us analyze Shakespeare’s sentences (in verse and prose) and recognize their historical valences, their various temporalities. The chapters from Richard Lanham’s Analyzing Prose are useful for that project in any era. The introduction to Janelle Mueller’s The Native Tongue and the Word gives an account of the early modern sentence in particular. Matti Rissanen’s chapter on syntax from The Cambridge History of the English Language is another indigestible mass of information – but with the help of the index, you should be able to make some use of it. For good measure, I will also link to Sylvia Adamson on literary language in the period. Not required, in the slightest – but you might want to dip in.

Lanham, from Analyzing Prose
Mueller, “Introduction
Rissanen, “Syntax
Adamson, “Literary Language

All of this, one can hope, will be of some use in assessing what Hamlet sounds like (and the related question of what Hamlet sounds like).

Rhetorical terms: elenchus, conciliatio, asianism, atticism.

Week 8

Reading assignment: Othello. Our concern this week will be with how the play sounds: the sound of its language, of its characters; the sound events that it scripts; the sound world it evokes and the sound world of the theater; possibly also the sound space of its receptions. We’ll be interested, that is, in the impression the play makes on the ear, as distinct from “reading” and perhaps from interpreting. How to make that distinction and how far it is possible will be among our questions. To help us, two supplementary readings: a chapter from Bruce Smith’s singular book, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England; and from Mladen Dolar’s The Voice and Nothing More.

Bruce Smith, “Within the Wooden O
Mladen Dolar, “The Linguistics of the Voice

Rhetorical terms: paromoiosis, diaeresis, periergia, expeditio.

Week 9

Reading assignment: Measure for Measure. This week, we turn to the topic of discourse, another approach to the kinds of language to be found within a play. The term will have at least two senses for us, one offered by Michel Foucault (socio-linguistic constructions that enable the establishment of authority in different domains), the other by Harry Berger (such constructions proper to different ethical positions). In each case, the interest is in how these discourses cut across other possible divisions of speech, e.g. among characters or scenes. To read for discourses is to suspend character as the primary distinction, or at least, to play the two against each other. There would be an argument for having considered these possibilities last week, as a foil to questions of character and history. On the other hand, one of the things we saw in listening to the sounds of Othello was how the musics respective to Iago or Othello could move around the character repertory.

Secondary readings include a classic essay by Foucault, and a helpful overview from Chicago’s Critical Terms for Literary Study. Berger’s article is long, and well worth reading in its entirety, though the first 12 pages will give you the gist.

Michel Foucault, “The Discourse on Language
Paul Bové, “Discourse
Harry Berger, Jr., “Making Trifles of Terrors

Rhetorical terms: deliberatio, occultatio and its synonyms.

Week 10

Reading assignment: King Lear. The first half of class will continue our work of synthesizing the kinds of description we have cultivated so far; there is no additional reading. For the exercise, however, please read the introduction and first chapter of Mark Johnson’s The Meaning of the Body, a book that makes some basic and very useful suggestions about how meaning arises from somatic experience. (The attachment here is a scan of the book, rather than a xerox, so does not follow the original pagination.)

Mark Johnson, from The Meaning of the Body

Week 11

Reading assignment: Antony and Cleopatra. As last week, the first half of class will continue our work of synthesizing the kinds of description we have cultivated so far; there is no additional reading. Music may arise, however, and will be our main interest as we turn to the exercises. Two readings may be helpful there. The first is from R. Murray Schafer’s The Soundscape, which should help us make a transition from our work with sound in week 8. The second is from David Lindley’s Music in Shakespeare, and will provide a historical introduction to music on the Shakespearian stage. Our interest is not necessarily in the historicity of Shakespeare’s music (though how music might help us thing about the historicity of the language is fair game). But Lindley’s account may still be stimulating, perhaps the first of the two chapters in particular, “Music in Theory.”

R. Murray Schafer, from The Soundscape.
David Lindley, from Shakespeare and Music.

Week 12

Reading assignment: The Winter’s Tale. WT is one of Shakespeare’s last plays, and it is often the one critics reach for in describing what has happened to his late style; so it will be for us. We’ll bring our full repertoire of resources to bear in describing it, I hope, but we will put particular emphasis on its rhythms. To that end, I’ve also assigned some chapters from Thomas Carper and Derek Attridge’s Meter and Meaning, which offers an introduction to the alternative system of scansion Attridge has developed for English poetry. (He elaborates it at greater length in The Rhythms of English Poetry [1982] and Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction [1995].) It does not solve our restlessness with the binary character of scansion, but it will allow for the recognition of some rhythmic patterns that foot scansion does not always easily accommodate. The other reading is an article by Simon Jarvis, “Musical Thinking: Hegel and the Phenomenology of Poetry.” This I hope will allow us to bring forward some of the thinking about music last week.

Attridge and Carper, Meter and Meaning
Jarvis, “Musical Thinking