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PS Hamlets : Course Description

Course Description ^top


film screenings: date/time see Course Schedule, C601
subject area: literature and cultural studies
language: English

reading: William Shakespeare, Hamlet; Margaret Atwood, "Gertrude Talks Back"; Tom Stoppard, The Fifteen Minute Hamlet; John Updike, Gertrude and Claudius;
films: Laurence Olivier, Hamlet; Kenneth Branagh, Hamlet (abridged version); Michael Almereyda, Hamlet - The Denmark Corporation;
books you need to buy: William Shakespeare: Hamlet (Arden edition); John Updike: Gertrude and Claudius;
other texts: A reader will be provided for our first meeting.

Hamlet Kenneth Branagh

"To be or not to be - that is the question", "What a piece of work isman" and "The rest is silence" - Hamlet is full of one-liners that have entered popular knowledge. The image of a shy guy with a skull in his hand is what most of us will think of when asked who Hamlet is. But Hamlet is more than the brooding, bookish prince who does not want to kill his uncle, suffers from a prototypical Oedipus-complex and spends his time pondering about the world and its woes. Shakespeare's drama has inspired dozens or more writers to write pieces complementing or contradicting his story or telling it from other perspectives. In this seminar, we will not only focus on Hamlet himself, we will also have a detailed look at Gertrude and Ophelia: What do we know about Gertrude? And why has Ophelia become the paradigm of female madness in literature, art and psychoanalytical practice? We will have a look at Tom Stoppard's comic Fifteen Minute Hamlet and Margaret Atwood's "Gertrude talks back" as a classical piece of feminist re-writing and discuss John Updike's Hamlet-prequel, Gertrude and Claudius. Last but not least, we will analyse various film adaptations: Laurence Olivier's classic depiction of the Danish prince, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet and Michael Almereyda's Hamlet turned urban slacker (Hamlet - The Denmark Corporation). You should be familiar with Hamlet by the beginning of the course.

Students attending this course will be expected to read not only the primary texts but an additional selection of secondary literature which will be part of our discussions in class. Attendance of film screenings (probably after class) is compulsory!

Duerer Melancholia

Reading List ^top


If you take the mandatory secondary texts into account, this course requires a considerable reading pensum. You should therefore have finished reading at least Shakespeare's Hamlet by the beginning of the summer term!
We will discuss texts according to the order in which they are mentionend in the course description, i.e.:
(01) Hamlet
(02) "Gertrude Talks Back"
(03) The Fifteen Minute Hamlet;
(04) Gertrude and Claudius
- for secondary literature see Course Schedule - All books should be available in bookshops or on the internet!