Close Reading of Sonnet 130: Form, Theme, and Cultural Context (and a Rage Comic)

I’m preparing to teach Shakespeare again this fall. Seton Hill offers the course every other year, so each time it comes around, it feels new.  The course will focus on plays, but I do like starting out with a brief unit on the sonnet in order to help my students get accustomed to the language.

It occurred to me that a lecture on the sonnet would be a good place to start introducing details about Shakespeare’s life and times, and also to model how our understanding of the structure, theme, and cultural context of a work helps us to interpret the words in the work.

Of course, this is a lesson I hope they’ll apply to the study of Shakespeare’s dramatic work, but it’s a general enough lesson that I thought I’d work it into a stand-alone lecture, useful for an intro to literature or intro to poetry course. I don’t have the time to put this much effort into every lecture, but I’m glad I made the time for this one.

Welcome to Literature Class

Understanding Sonnet 130 (Preview)Bonus rage comic, excerpted from the above lecture, that sets up the main idea: I am not that interested in quizzing students on what a text means (as if it can have only one “correct” meaning); but I am very interested in having a discussion about why a text is worth re-reading.


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