Spring 2014

Shakespeare and the History of Books

Listed in: Special Seminar, as COLQ-231

Moodle site: Course


Anston L. Bosman (Section 01)
Mike Kelly (Section 01)


How does the history of literature relate to the history of media? This course addresses the question by focusing on William Shakespeare’s plays as printed texts evolving from the sixteenth through the twenty-first century. With the Shakespeare archive as our case study, we will explore how drama as a literary form is shaped by the material format of its sources, performance documents, and print editions. Among other topics, we will consider techniques of book production; the business of publishing and circulation; the sociology of readership; the relations among script, actor’s part, and printed play; revision and multiple texts; Shakespearean authorship and canonicity; modern editing and the future of digital texts.

Using special collections at Amherst, the Five Colleges, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., students will learn skills of archival research and cultural critique, grappling with fundamental concepts and research procedures in book history while refining their understanding of Shakespeare’s texts, the “Gutenberg parenthesis,” and our current transition to a post-print media world. During the seminar, each student will develop a prospectus for a research project; together, the class will curate an exhibition to be displayed in Frost Library.

This course is part of a new model of tutorial at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty.  Limited to six sophomores. Spring semester. Professor Bosman and Mr. Kelly.

If Overenrolled: Will seek a balance between students with backgrounds in literature and history and give priority to students who are likely to pursue independent research


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014