Sophomore Seminars

Shakespeare, Playing, Gender


We will study some of the best- and lesser-known plays of Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale)considering them against the background of gender, sexuality, and transvestite theater, as well as of race, politics, and empire in Shakespeare’s day. As its title suggests, this seminar will also focus on theatrical and other kinds of "playing," including both "playing gender" or the ambiguities of gender performance in a transvestite context (where boy actors played women and female characters cross-dressed as male) and playing against stereotypes of female and male.  There will also be opportunities on Zoom to play with or try out different ways of performing particular characters or scenes (with no memorizing required!), as well as engaging in lively discussions.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Patricia Parker

Patricia Parker received her M.A. from the University of Toronto and taught for 3 years in Tanzania (whose President Julius Nyerere developed the concept of Ujamaa and translated Shakespeare into Swahili).  After lecturing at the University of East Africa and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale, she taught at the University of Toronto before becoming a Stanford Professor of English and Comparative Literature in 1988. Author of four books, including Inescapable Romance (from Renaissance to modern), Shakespeare from the Margins, and Shakespearean Intersections (on Shakespeare and issues of race, sexuality, gender, and geopolitics) and co-editor of five collections of criticism, including Shakespeare and the Question of Theory and Women, Race and Writing in the Early Modern Period, she has also taught at the School of Criticism and Theory, delivered the Gauss Seminars at Princeton, Shakespeare's Birthday lecture at Folger Shakespeare Library, Paul Gottschalk lecture at Cornell, and other lectures around the world and received Guggenheim, NEH, Mellon, and other fellowships.  In 2003-4, she organized an international conference at Stanford on “Shakespeare in Asia.” In addition to teaching courses on Shakespeare, Epic and Empire, and other topics and completing new books on gender, rhetoric, and race, she is the General Editor of the Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia, which will be released in 2021 as an ongoing online resource, free to anyone in the world with access to the internet.