Please note that the drop add period ends on Monday, September 14. If interested to enroll in a course, please contact the instructor directly.


Undergraduate Courses

Graduate Courses

ENGL 6320-01: Shakespeare’s Cultural Legacy (Greg Semenza)

Description: Just a few years beyond the quatercentenary year—the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death—this seminar will focus on Shakespeare’s cultural legacy.  Looking critically and theoretically at engagements of Shakespeare in scholarship, corporate business practices, educational curricula, music, television, and film, we will ask the question “Why Shakespeare?” That is, how and why has the “cultural capital” of Shakespeare been evoked since at least the publication of the First Folio in 1623?  More specifically, how has Shakespeare been presented to the masses in terms of sexuality, gender, race, violence, and nationalism?  What happens when Shakespeare is transplanted into a non-British or non-western context?  What happens when Shakespeare’s name is evoked in lowbrow entertainment or appropriated in popular culture forms?  What can the serious study of reception, adaptation, appropriation, and other such engagements teach us about Shakespeare and his considerable influence?


From Shakespeare’s day to our own, certain specific binary oppositions have impacted our ability to answer such questions as these.  Thus, our seminar will foreground five specific, interrelated binaries central to the reception and theorization of Shakespeare: 1) eternal (transhistorical) and temporal (historical); 2) highbrow (high culture) and lowbrow (popular/mass culture); 3) radical and conservative; 4) subversive and recuperative (i.e., “subversion and containment”); and 5) global and local.  How are these binate structures connected to each other?  To what extent might they be said to originate in Shakespeare’s own authorial style?  To what degree did the First Folio’s publication contribute to their development and proliferation?  Finally, how do they continue to limit—as well as inform—our current understanding of both Shakespeare’s work and his cultural legacy?


Undergraduate Courses

HIST 3460: Italy 1250-1600

Instructor: Kenneth Gouwens

Description: Italy from the triumph of the city-state and the popolo grosso to the end of the Renaissance. The complex interrelationship between society and culture will be the focus of study.


HIST 3704: Medieval Islamic Civilization to 1700

Instructor: Fakhredin Azimi

Description: The social dynamics of faith, culture, and change from the rise of Islam to the Ottoman decline and the Islamic challenge to Greek and Latin Christendom.

HIST 3752: History of Precolonial Africa

Instructor: Fiona Vernal

Description: The history of pre-colonial Africa with particular attention to the rise and fall of African Kingdoms, interaction between different ethnic groups, African trade with other continents, and the impact of foreigners on African societies.

Graduate Courses

HIST 5195: Ireland 1600-1800 – Upheaval and Adaptation

(co-taught by Brendan Kane and Natasha Sumner, Harvard, and parallel-listed with CELT 209 at Harvard)

  • Description: The two centuries considered in this course witnessed some of the most dramatic and fateful changes in Irish history and, indeed, that of the British Empire. The period opens in the midst of armed rebellion linking Gaelic Ireland with Catholic allies from continental Europe which threatened to throw off English monarchical control of the island; it closes on the eve of the Act of Union which would see Ireland legislatively linked to England, Scotland, and Wales. In spite of the political dominance of English crown and Parliament, and the cultural destruction wrought by settler colonialism, Ireland’s majority across those 200 years remained Irish-speaking. What do the voices of those witnesses to upheaval tell us about history, culture, colonialism and the character of “modernity” more broadly?

This cross-disciplinary graduate seminar pairs a consideration of the major historiographical questions associated with early modern Ireland with close study of Irish-language poetry and prose of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In a time of regular conflict and drastic sociopolitical change for the island’s Irish-speaking majority, we will consider authors’ preoccupations in relation to historical events, and explore their changing creative impulses. Broad historical themes such as the emergence of modern imperialism and state formation will be investigated, and macro-historical themes will be tested through localized case studies. From a literary perspective, critical issues to be deliberated include, but are not limited to, the role(s) of the poet in society, tradition and innovation, orality, and intertextuality. Weekly readings will be drawn from primary sources and historical and literary scholarship, and translations of primary sources will be available. Engagement with the secondary historical literature is intended both to set the literary texts in context and to explore questions of methodology, theory, and argument in working with Irish sources.

The seminar is designed to be accessible to graduate students specializing in either history or literature (in Irish or English). Students from other disciplines are also welcome, and are encouraged to contact the instructors with questions:

N.B.: This course will be taught concurrently at Harvard University and some of our meetings will take place on the Harvard campus.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites. Competence in Irish would be helpful, but is not required.

HIST 5505: Gender in the Early Modern Period

Instructor: Cornelia Dayton

Description: Discussion of key works on gender, women, and sexuality, spanning the 1400's-1700's, with a geographical focus mostly on the British Isles, continental Europe, and the Americas.