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First-Year Seminar (101-6-21)


Shakespeare to Hamilton: History on Stage & Screen


Harris McNeil Mercer
University Hall, Rm 215

Meeting Info

University Hall 118: Tues, Thurs 2:00PM - 3:20PM

Overview of class

From Broadway musicals to Elizabethan history plays, sexy historical soap operas on Netflix to ornately costumed Oscar-bait period pieces, derring-do exploits by swashbuckling stars to subversive retellings of famous lives across lines of race, gender, and more, audiences flock to see depictions of the past. These films and dramatizations do much more than allow us to imagine we can witness events we otherwise only read about; they also prompt us to ask questions about past, present, and future. How did prior generations see history, and how does historical imagination change? What do different depictions of events tell us about the societies that produced those representations? What happens when "history" receives dramatic embodiment—and who gets to do the (re-)telling? In this class, we will study classic and modern historical dramatizations to consider the imagined audiences for these works, and what happens when they're transmitted to new contexts that their originators never imagined—including now. Our explorations will include staged works running the gamut from Shakespeare to Lin-Manuel Miranda, American history as rendered onscreen by Steven Spielberg, and radical contemporary reexaminations of classic conventions by artists from Germany to Kuwait. In every case we'll be interested in the ways artists and audiences both conceive of and reconfigure a workable past, and how our different pasts change the present and might shape the future.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only