Novel/Play to purchase and read before the start of the course:
Short Fiction to be read before the start of the course:
What participants should bring:
Scheduled topics and faculty presentations: (Topics and presentations are subject to change)
What’s Tragedy?: Shakespeare and Beyond
Joseph Campana, Ph.D.
We’re often in the position of wondering just what a tragedy is. Often the answer is quite technical and refers to Aristotle and a series of terms like hamartia, anagnorisis, and catharsis. But authors and philosophers in the wake of Aristotle have been asking the questions “what’s tragedy” or “what counts as a tragedy” for centuries. For some, this is a question of theatrical genre, and many have claimed that tragedy is not only on the wane but no longer possible. But when we ask such questions, we’re often also posing some very profound questions about the nature of suffering, fortune, or evil. Given how commonly we use the term “tragedy” and the “tragic,” our students too many wonder what counts as a tragedy in 2017. Natural disaster? Economic upheaval? War? Terrorism? Is it an individual experience or can a culture or community experience tragedy? In this session, we’ll think about these questions by looking at various theories of tragedy, from Aristotle forward, and by looking at a series of passages from Shakespeare’s tragedies to ask what makes a tragedy and how useful is the lens of tragedy for approaching pain and disaster. We’ll draw on your knowledge of the major tragedies as well as excerpts from some of the lesser known tragedies. The session will combine lecture, discussion, and even a writing exercise. Macbeth will serve as both a case study for tragedy and the focus of the afternoon session, but we may also test out the language of tragedy for the 20th-21st century drama we teach.
The Case of Macbeth: Tragedy, Adaptation, and Shakespeare for Kids
Joseph Campana, Ph.D.
For many reasons, Macbeth remains one of the most teachable of Shakespeare’s plays. Some would say it’s brevity makes this possible. For others, it’s the allure of witches or violence or the psychological drama that produces visions of floating daggers and bloody hands. Our purpose in this session is to continue conversations from the morning about tragedy while taking advantage of the accessibility of Macbeth. We’ll consider ways of enlivening classroom conversation by focusing on several avenues for teaching the play. First, we’ll consider the translation of Macbeth into a variety of arts and media forms—film, television, fiction, ballet, graphic novel, etc. From these translations, many questions arise: what’s essentially “Shakespeare” especially in versions without words? What resources do various arts and media provide? What’s a way of managing these in a classroom? We’ll parlay this focus on different versions on Macbeth into a conversation about child figures in that work. In a play that features haunting visions of children (the bloody babe, the crowned child), Lady Macbeth’s childlessness, and the grim end faced by Macduff’s children, clearly the play wants us to think about the role of children in the world of tragedy, and numerous adaptations of Macbeth intensely on this question.
Race and America: Reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
Nicole A. Waligora-Davis, Ph.D.
Speaking of the role and work that race and racism performs in the world, Toni Morrison once wrote, “race magnifies the matter that matters.” Arguably, her writing for the last four decades offers a testament to the multiple terrains and registers through which race has, and continues to, shape the lived lives of black Americans in the United States. In this session we turn to Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, a text frequently taught in high schools and colleges across the United States, to examine how race in fact “magnifies the matter that matters.” Framing her novel around a young black girl whose name—Pecola—riffs on Fannie Hurst’s Peola from the best-selling The Imitation of Life (1933) (a name that subsequently circulated in black communities as tantamount to a racial slur), Morrison underscores how culture reproduces particular understandings of race that place the psychological wellbeing of children at risk. Like the educational “Dick and Jane” primers first introduced in the American classroom in the 1930s, The Bluest Eye is first and foremost a primer on racial literacy. With Morrison’s novel as our workbook, we will study several of the films, icons, consumer products, and children’s books from the 1920s-1950s that provide the rich cultural landscape she uses to discuss race in this novel, in addition to considering Max Fleisher’s Betty Boop cartoons and the doll studies conducted by psychologists Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark that helped sway the court in Brown v. Board of Education.
Primarily structured as a discussion seminar, our session will model critical approaches and questions that may be used in your own classrooms to discuss this novel, and race and literature more generally.
In the Footsteps of Dante
Part One: The Music of the Spheres: Dante’s Pre-Copernican Universe
Dante's Divine Comedy presents a perfectly ordered, innately poetic cosmos of exquisite beauty, balance, and harmony. Come join us as we journey, along with Dante, from Hell to Purgatory to Paradise.
Part Two: Where Athens and Jerusalem Meet: Why Dante Chose Virgil as his Guide
For Dante and his fellow Medievals, Virgil was not only the greatest epic poet; he was the exemplar of human reason and classical virtue and a proto-Christian whom God used to prepare the ancient world for Christ’s coming.
Participants should read the first three cantos of Dante’s Inferno in advance and bring their copies of these cantos to the workshop.
Touchstones of Romantic Poetry
The morning session will offer an overview of British Romantic poetry, placing this literary movement in the context of the history of aesthetics and ideas. The major thesis will be that Romanticism is a revolutionary form of art that mirrors the social and political revolutions of the era. More specifically, it represents a literary response to a crisis in culture that also constitutes the beginnings of the modern world. The main topics will include the new Romantic concept of the poet and of art, particularly the concept of the imagination, Romantic internalization of older literary tropes such as the romance, Romanticism as a set of values, and the task of the Romantics: finding and affirming meaning in an increasingly secular world.
Touchstones of Romantic Poetry Part II
The afternoon session will give participants an opportunity to test some of these general ideas in a close analysis of a John Keats poem. Drawing upon some key concepts in Keats’s letters, the participants will explore what is Romantic about “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Putting Things Together for AP
Building on the ideas and techniques presented throughout the week, this session will relate the information learned to the AP English Literature curriculum.