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123221 SE Literary Seminar / BA Paper / MA British/Irish/New English (2020W)

Shakespeare's War of the Roses

11.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work



max. 18 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Due to the ongoing public health situation, this course will be taught online.

NB: There will be no class on 20th October.

Tuesday 06.10. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 13.10. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 27.10. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 03.11. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 10.11. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 17.11. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 24.11. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 01.12. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 15.12. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 12.01. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 19.01. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital
Tuesday 26.01. 12:15 - 13:45 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

George R.R. Martin is not the first to look to medieval English history for inspiration. Will Shakespeare got there roughly four hundred years earlier… Dragons, I'm afraid, I can only deliver as metaphor, but "narrow seas", rivalry, heroism, corruption, intrigue, beheadings, conspiracy, murder, marriage by proxy, broken promises and oaths and truces, seemingly endless power struggles, treason, trial by single combat, witchcraft and a bit of gender-bending: no problem. I'll even throw in a warrior queen and one of the rhetorically most brilliant villains you'll ever meet on printed page.

In this seminar (which will be held online) we are going to discuss four of Shakespeare's history plays. To be precise: the so-called first tetralogy, consisting of Henry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) and Richard III. Historically speaking, the period between Henry VI's ascension to the throne, as the last king from the House of Lancaster (symbolised by the red rose), and the death of Richard III, the last king from the House of York (represented by the white rose), spans sixty-four years, from 1422 to 1485. Shakespeare wrote the four plays that deal with the wars fuelled by these two Houses' fighting for sovereignty more than a century later, and in rather quick succession, between 1591 and 1593. While he did so, England was reigned by a Queen who traced her legitimacy back to Henry VII, the man that took over from Richard III, united Lancastrians and Yorkists through marriage, and founded the Tudor-dynasty. As you will find out, Shakespeare's plays have a rather tenuous relationship with history, but that doesn't make them any less bloody. Or replete with things worth knowing about how politics work. Or fun to read. We'll supplement most lessons with critical reading that represents a particular approach to Shakespeare studies, so that by the end of term, when it's time for you to write your term papers or BA theses, you'll have a treasure trove of methods, concepts and theories at your disposal.

There will be a text knowledge quiz for each of the discussed plays. You will be able to fill in each quiz at home, using your Arden Shakespeare. Please send each filled-in quiz as a pdf-file attachment via email before the start of the first lesson on the play in question. NB: Any quiz sent in after the relevant class has started, will be disregarded and remain unmarked, which means you won't be able to collect points on it.

Assessment and permitted materials

Regular attendance (online); regular and appropriate preparation of assigned reading material; one 20 min presentation; active participation in following discussion (online); participation in work groups (online); 4 plot-quizzes (sent in as .pdf email attachment); final paper (sent in as .doc email attachment).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

No more than two lessons may be missed without certified medical reason. If a doctor's note is produced, a third lesson may be missed but is to be compensated for at the teacher's discretion. If more than three lessons are missed, this results in failing the course.

Quiz 1: 2,5%
Quiz 2: 2,5%
Quiz 3: 2,5%
Quiz 4: 2,5%
Active participation in discussion: 10%
Student presentation: 20%
Work group activity: 10 %
Term paper: 50%

Points must be collected in all of these areas to pass. The benchmark for passing this course is at 60%.

Marks in %:
1 (very good): 90-100%
2 (good): 81-89%
3 (satisfactory): 71-80%
4 (pass): 60-70%
5 (fail): 0-59%

The term papers/BA theses will be marked according to the following categories: form; content; methodology; quality of thesis; language; style.

The written work has to be accompanied by a signed and dated anti-plagiarism statement, sent by email as a .pdf file. The written work itself (6500-8000 words for a term paper; 8500-10000 words for a BA thesis) is to be uploaded through the Turnitin system as well as sent (as a .doc file) via email to me: sylvia.mieszkowski@univie.ac.at.

Examination topics

There will be no written exam.

Reading list

Books to buy:
The following texts have been ordered for you at Facultas (book shop on Campus). Please drop by to collect them or ask whether they can deliver to your home address.

- William Shakespeare, Henry VI (part 1) [ISBN: 978-1-903436-43-1]
- William Shakespeare, Henry VI (part 2) [ISBN: 978-1-90343663-9]
- William Shakespeare, Henry VI (part 3) [ISBN: 978-1-903436-31-8]
- William Shakespeare, Richard III [ISBN: 978-1-903436899]

Other critical editions are acceptable, too, if you are already in possession of a copy of one of the plays (no translations, though!), but if you are buying, please buy the Arden, so we will literally all be on the same page.

Texts on Moodle:
All secondary reading, that is, critical texts on the plays to be discussed and their cultural/political/historical/social contexts will be made available at the beginning of term as pdf files on Moodle.

Preparatory background reading:
If you read German, whenever dealing with Shakespeare, this should be your first port of call, if you need to get a good general idea: Ina Schabert (ed.), Shakespeare Handbuch, Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 2000. Please familiarise yourselves with the respective entries on the four plays we are going to discuss. They, too, will be available as pdf files on Moodle. A good second place to start reading is the introduction to every one of the four plays in question, which forms a substantial part of every Arden edition. These intros are generally lengthy affairs, but their internal structure makes it easy to select which parts might be more relevant for the purpose at hand than others.

Association in the course directory

Studium: UF 344, BA 612, MA 844; MA 844(2)
Code/Modul: UF 4.2.4-322, BA10.2, MA4, MA7; MA 4.1, 4.2
Lehrinhalt: 12-0449

Last modified: Mo 05.10.2020 10:09