001- Instructor: Leech | MWF 1:25 PM – 2:20 PM


In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, the rise of what Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow, and the specter of death that haunts our cultural spaces from schools to churches to nightclubs, it would be understandable for anyone to ask: why does Shakespeare even matter? And yet, as the symbol of genius, transcendence, and timelessness—a metaphor for the greatness of Western culture—it is imperative that we free Shakespeare from being white, male property. In addition to being an introduction to Shakespeare’s oeuvre, this course will historicize the “whitening” of Shakespeare and European culture, recognizing instead multiple, multicultural, accessible Shakespeares. In this course, we will attempt to trace the historical roots of our ideas about race, gender, and sexuality by reading Shakespearean plays alongside selected contemporary texts 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 Shakespeare’s 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?