Book Culture in the Age of Shakespeare
Bookworms, book-learning, bookishness. Writing has been around for centuries, but expressions like these, linking intellectualism with books, originated in the age of Shakespeare. This course explores the first great book culture in England – the Renaissance – from the rough, brooding sonnets of the early Petrarchan poets to the archetypal bookish intellectual, Shakespeare’s own Hamlet. Along the way, we will encounter the “new media” of print and public playhouses, early publishing and the institution of European humanism, gender politics and the suppression of women writers, popular genres such as erotic verse and tragedy, and the first rumblings of modern thought in the new genre of the essay (a tradition in which we will actively participate). Class will involve lecture, discussion, and field trips to the university’s Special Collections department, where we will gain hands-on experience with real Renaissance books. In addition to regular writing assignments, participants will contribute to two special projects: a student-edited anthology of Renaissance poems and a student-curated exhibit of Renaissance artifacts from Special Collections. We will also link up with the Henry Art Gallery’s exhibit Ann Hamilton, in which the celebrated contemporary artist reimagines the book for a post-book era.