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Unit information: Reading Shakespeare in 2015/16

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Unit name Reading Shakespeare
Unit code ENGL10105
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Derry
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce a number of works by Shakespeare, drawn from across the range of his dramatic and non-dramatic writing. There will be a particular focus on reading his works as texts, including concepts such as language, form, and character. There will also be opportunities to consider Shakespeare's critical reception by a range of writers from Romantics such as Coleridge and Hazlitt to twenty-first century critics such as Greenblatt and Bloom.


This unit aims to give students a firm grounding in both the dramatic and non-dramatic works of Shakespeare, and to encourage thought and reflection on issues such as language, form, character, and critical reception. Through an emphasis on close reading and textual appreciation students will be encouraged to gain a thorough understanding of a range of texts.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will have had an opportunity to read, discuss and compare a range of Shakespeare's works, to think through questions relevant to them, and to develop relevant literary critical practices. This unit is designed to prepare students for, and to complement, the Level I unit 'Shakespeare and the Traditions of the English Stage', where the emphasis will shift from textual analysis and literary appreciation to viewing Shakespeare's works in the context of his contemporaries and of the theatrical conventions of the period.

Teaching Information

The unit will normally be taught in ten three-hour seminars, which will utilise a range of teaching methods including lectures by the tutor(s), formal and informal presentations by students, and class and smaller group discussion.

Assessment Information

Students will be required to write two essays for formal assessment. The first will be of 1,800 to 2,500 words; in this assignment, students will be asked to engage with a particular text or a topic with a relatively defined scope. The second will be of 2,800 to 4,000 words and will normally involve a wider range of texts and/or approaches to Shakespeare's work. The first essay will be worth 40% of the unit mark; the second essay will be worth 60%.

Reading and References

  • Jonathan Bate, The Genius of Shakespeare.
  • William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays.
  • Frank Kermode, Shakespeare's Language.
  • Stanley Wells (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare.
  • Wells and Taylor (editors), William Shakespeare: The Complete Works.