December 21, 2006

Shakespeare and Contemporary Social Issues

Is Shakespeare relevant? Is literature relevant?

This course takes hold of such questions in a serious way, embracing one of the world's most revered and respected literary figures. While reading and studying Shakespeare's work can be a challenging endeavor, holding his work up against our contemporary social issues can enhance our engagement and deepen our understanding of Shakespeare's life, times, and literary craft as well as our own contemporary social situation. We will discover how the themes and issues of Shakespeare's plays have a real meaning and significance in our contemporary social discourse.

Students will design and complete a public project throughout the semester that analyzes meaningful connections between the "world of the play" and the world of our everyday lives. One option for the public project is to spend the semester engaged for at least 30 hours in a community organization. This service learning work could involve education, activism, and/or service on issues of literacy, homelessness, racism, violence, incarceration, or many other serious social issues. Such work becomes another "text" in the class and an opportunity for reflection, critique, and analysis that opens the door wider to the world—Shakespeare's and ours.