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THIRD YEAR COURSES
SEMESTER ONE - CORE PERIOD COURSE
TRAGEDY, HISTORY AND SOVEREIGNTY IN LATE MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN POETRY AND DRAMA
Course Organiser: Dr Dermot Cavanagh
This course will consider tragic poetry and drama as contributions to an enduring debate over sovereignty; its focus will be on the mode of 'tragical history'. The course will explore how a variety of tragic writing uses the past to examine where the power of the state should be vested. Through a range of late medieval and early modern texts we will investigate how tragic writing explores the nature of authority, who possesses it and who is entitled to it. A set of key political issues will be concentrated upon: the representation of monarchy, the role of counsel, obedience and resistance, legitimacy, courts and courtiership, aristocratic and popular revolt.
The course will begin by examining a crucial mode of tragic writing: the 'fall of princes'. The function and concerns of this mode will be examined in relation to fourteenth century poetry as well as its renewal in the sixteenth century. The latter will involve considering continuities between historical poetry and the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. In its second part, we will concentrate on early modern drama that represents 'foreign' or remote areas of the past where these key political questions are of critical concern. This will include examining theatre concerned with Rome, the 'oriental' past and biblical drama. The course will consider the ways in which political crisis is depicted in tragic writing and its capacity to draw on a variety of political ideas, traditions and conceptions of the state: royalist, republican, and 'commonwealth'.
Set Texts and Seminar Schedule
Selected further reading:
H. A. Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy
John Drakakis & Naomi Liebler (eds), Tragedy
John Drakakis (ed), Shakespearean Tragedy
Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy
Terry Eagleton, Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic
Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Relgion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
R W Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance
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