English 203, section 2: “A dream of passion”: Affects in the Renaissance Theater
Instructor: Professor David Landreth
This class studies the production of feeling on and around the early modern stage. We’ll consider a range of vocabularies for the experience of theatrical feeling, from Aristotle’s theory of purgative pleasure, to the medical-ecological model of the humors and passions, to contemporary analyses of cognition and affect in performance environments. A central question will be what it might have meant for early modern theatergoers to share space with a fiction, and how that site of embodied fellow-feeling makes the theater a privileged instance of the relationship between art and its audience. About half our plays will be by Shakespeare and half by his major contemporaries; the booklist here is tentative, so don’t buy any of them before the start of the semester (though Hamlet is a pretty safe bet). As the texts date between 1590 and 1620, students may use the class to fulfill either the English department’s medieval-to-1600 coverage requirement or its 1600-1800 requirement.