About this course

Themes of metamorphosis, change, transformation, and ‘becoming’ are brought to life in richly divergent ways in the works of William Shakespeare. In large part, this is due to his enduring debt to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The course looks at excerpts from this epic collection of classical myths alongside Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, and The Winter’s Tale, as well as some contemporary adaptations of Ovid and Shakespeare.

We will see how questions about metamorphosis also become questions about artistic transformation, and examine how Shakespeare brings Ovidian archetypes ‘to life’ on stage. The British Renaissance’s complex relationship to its classical inheritance will also animate many of our explorations. What does it mean, for example, to transform and rework literary materials from the past? Is translation a kind of transformation? In addition to these questions about history and culture, we will think about metamorphosis and transformation as themes that assume a kind of mythic eternality that makes claims to universality: the human life cycle, the seasons of the earth, the rise and fall of civilizations. At the most personal level, we will read these plays and poems to dwell on the question of what it means to transform from child to adult to elder: in other words, to ‘become’ ourselves.

The study trip takes us to London to see a theatrical production connected to the course, and to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National Gallery.

Professor: Wendy Beth Hyman, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Oberlin College, OH Email: whyman@oberlin.edu


Subject Areas

Check with your home institution for specific information on fulfillment of major / course requirements.