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EN3E1 Othello (15 CATS) - final year students only

Convenor: Professor Carol Chillington Rutter

This is one of the Distributional Requirements for the Theory, North American and World Literature Pathways. It can also be selected as an option under the remaining Pathway. The module is restricted to Finalists who have, or who are studying, EN301 Shakespeare & Selected Dramatists of His Time.


Spring Term 2019

Weekly three-hour seminar

Seminar: Tuesday 4pm - 7pm

Module aims:
This option offers the opportunity to study one of Shakespeare’s earliest Jacobean tragedies in depth and from a number of discursive points of view: as a failed domestic comedy; a study of male heroism and male anxiety; an analysis of gender identity, stereotyping, contestation and subversion; a divorce tract; an analysis of ‘race’. Interested in the Jacobean Othello, the module begins by looking at Shakespeare’s source in Giraldo Cinthio then at a map, to plot the play’s geographic co-ordinates in locations burdened with contemporary significance. From there it develops a notion of narrative – the traveller’s tale, the personal history, the cultural documentary, slander, gossip. An extensive portfolio of secondary reading supports each week's intensive investigation of areas of the playtext. The module is interested in performance, in the ‘original’ Othello on Shakespeare’s stage and in subsequent performances on stage and film. It is also interested in working practically on the text in rehearsal conditions. (So students will be expected to come to seminars prepared to put text on its feet. This, however, should not be seen as in any way requiring students to 'perform'; rather, to investigate language as action and scenes as 'shows'.) Students will spend a full day working with theatre records/archival materials at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust thinking about how to write performance studies.

Learning Outcomes: Students will develop skills in close reading of the Othello text historically against a number of contemporary interests.The module introduces students to the Shakespeare archives and develops projects to use them. Taught using the pedagogic practices developed at the CAPITAL (now IATL) Centre, it will offer students the benefits of open-space learning. This module is open to finalists who have or are also taking EN301.

Method of Assessment: Commonplace Book (submitted end of spring term); Creative examination (summer term).

What is a 'creative examination'? It's an opportunity for students to pull together everything they've read, thought, and talked about on the module, and, instead of sitting down to a three-hour exam where the tutor sets the questions, themselves deciding how they want to respond to the module by producing their own critically and textually informed creative 'riff' on Othello. In the recent past these have included monologues ('For Bianca' which started with Emilia's line about how Othello has 'be-whored' his wife and, speaking from Bianca's point of view, 'voiced' the woman's parts in the play; 'Dog-whistle politics', on Roderigo); an analysis of classical and modernist representations of the female form that went on to paint the double faces of Desdemona; a series of instrumental pieces as orchestration for a production; a sculpted head (called 'Iago' that represents the man who claims 'I am not what I am'; a life-sized wire and paper sculpture of Othello that literally reads his body; a series of costume drawings; the transcriptions of Roderigo's voicemail messages, taken from Iago's answerphone; research into early modern map-making and an illustration of the geography (actual and symbolic) of Othello's world; an Othello rap. The creative examination allows students to work in a medium of their choice (which may be written or may use any of the visual or material arts) to add their own layers to the palimpsest we call 'Shakespeare's Othello'.