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Module QXE-3086:
Shakespeare's Afterlives

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Helen Wilcox

Overall aims and purpose

This module will explore Shakespeare's work and the variety of ways in which it has been absorbed into the culture of subsequent centuries. The seminars will centre on a close examination of four plays, followed in each case by a study of the afterlives that these works have generated in the theatre, literature, film, music, art, criticism, politics and everyday language. The course not only offers new material for an understanding of the art of Shakespeare as well as his `followers', but also raises questions about what is deemed acceptable appropriation of Shakespeare's writing and reputation. Where does literary influence end and a cashing-in on Shakespeare's cultural capital begin? Topics for discussion thus include the perceived (and actual) role of literature in society, and the importance of Shakespeare to projects such as feminist and post-colonial rewritings of the English literary canon.

Course content

In order to explore the concept of literary afterlives, the weekly seminars alternate between the study of a Shakespeare play and the investigation of instances of the ‘afterlife’ of that particular play. For example, a seminar on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is followed by a seminar on Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children, a text riddled with references to the play and its adaptations as well as to the ‘Shakespeare industry’ as a whole. The module encourages students to be alert to examples of the use and abuse of Shakespeare in our own contemporary contexts, and to respond creatively as well as critically to the plays and other texts under discussion. Participation in seminars is stimulated by a variety of means, including weekly presentations by pairs of students and a final colloquium on the essay projects being researched by members of the group.

Assessment Criteria


Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium


Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps


Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production

Learning outcomes

  1. Appreciate, analyse and interpret Shakespearian texts in a variety of genres.

  2. Participate in the critical discussion of later responses to Shakespeare’s works, including editions, essays, rewritings, films, novels and stage adaptations.

  3. Relate the texts, whether Shakespearian or later, to their literary and cultural contexts.

  4. Identify and make use of ideas and theories relevant to the study of Shakespeare’s cultural and literary afterlives, and particularly those concerning intertextuality, influence, adaptation and cultural capital.

  5. Select, digest and organise material and produce a consistent and coherent argument, presented both orally and in essay form, to a deadline.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Short Assignment 20
Short Assignment 20
3,000 Word Essay 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

  1. One two-hour seminar per week for 11 weeks
  2. One one-hour study group per week for 11 weeks
Private study 167

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting


Courses including this module

Optional in courses: