R419 Spring 2019 The Sonnets of William Shakespeare
Mondays, 11:50–1:15, Mar. 25–Apr. 29
Instructor: Karen Miles
The 154 sonnets of Shakespeare tackle big issues, particularly the tension between ideal love and love as we actually experience it. This tension then produces a second tension between poetry that beautifully depicts ideal examples of love and poetry that describes its gritty realities. In discussing the themes and artistry of the sonnets, we will also explore questions about the collection itself. The sonnets can be and are usually read as discrete lyrical reflections without much regard for the order in which they appear in the text. When they are read in their numerical order, however, a story emerges involving a poet, his young male friend, his mistress, and a rival poet or two. In tracing this story, we will also consider the extent to which the meaning of many a sonnet shifts when it is read in the specific context of the developing story. The recommended text is the edition of the sonnets from the Folger Shakespeare Library, edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine.
Karen Miles holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in French literature. She taught at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside before becoming a program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since retiring and joining OLLI, she has taught courses on Shakespeare's sonnets and his plays, Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V.