San Diego- Course Info


Kingship and Revolution in the Age of Shakespeare    

*Register Here!

Abraham Stoll, Professor and Chair of the English Department at the University of San Diego

Wednesdays, October 11 - November 15   7:15 - 8:45pm

Location:  Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego


Course Description: 

The Renaissance in England takes us from the magnificence of Henry VIII, to the challenge of his daughter Elizabeth I, to Charles I, whose head rolled on the floor of a revolutionary tribunal. Political power coalesced in the single figure of the sovereign, a figure of theological legitimacy, idealized justice, beauty, and custom. And political power scattered, into the multitudes of individuals who ventured in their thoughts beyond the absolute rule of kingship. These individuals thought beyond custom and theology, toward novel understandings of justice and social order, and toward a new sense of themselves, as political, even revolutionary, agents.

In the middle of this is Shakespeare, who stages kingship in so many of his plays. Two of the best examples are Richard II and Hamlet, both of which will be performed at the Old Globe this summer in San Diego. Our course takes its inspiration from the summer festival, studying some Shakespeare, and studying some of the broader philosophical, theological, political, and especially literary, contexts of the age. Please try this summer to see both plays – though if you miss them it will not impede your experience in the seminar. In the fall we will begin with Thomas More’s Humanist masterpiece Utopia, then Richard II, selections from Spenser’s allegorical epic The Faerie Queene, the radical political writings of John Milton and Thomas Hobbes, and lastly return to Shakespeare, with Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s age is also called the Early Modern period, a name that captures how the culture was shifting toward modernity. In the symbols and stories of the age we can glimpse much of what forms modern politics – what produces political power and what topples that power, what an individual thinks he or she can do, and what looks like justice. For that reason, all comparisons to our current political moment will be welcome. 


Optional, but Encouraged Special Event and Course Preview!

Reserve the evening of September 9th for a picnic dinner at The Old Globe, followed by a talk by Prof. Stoll, and a performance of Hamlet at The Old Globe in Balboa Park.  Stay tuned, on the Yale Club of San Diego web page, YCSD Facebook site, and upcoming info in your email, for more details on this special Yale Club of San Diego summer event!


*Register Here!

Professor Abraham Stoll

Abraham Stoll is Professor and Chair of the English Department at the University of San Diego. He received a BA from Yale in 1992, studying English and literary theory. He received a PhD from Princeton in 2000, specializing in the Renaissance and early modern periods. He was a Mellon Prize Fellow at the University Center for Human Values in Princeton, and has been a research fellow at the Huntington Library and the Folger Library, as well as receiving funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Folger Institute. In 2015, he was awarded a University Professorship at the University of San Diego, and has won several teaching awards. He was Visiting Faculty at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is an Affiliated Faculty in the Old Globe and USD Shiley Graduate Theatre Program, teaching the actors in USD's top-ranked MFA program in classical acting.


Professor Stoll has a new book, Conscience in Early Modern English Literature, forthcoming this fall from Cambridge University Press. It explores the theological and political discourses that surround the idea of conscience, and the way that poets such as Shakespeare and Milton attempt to capture how it feels to be in the throes of conscience. He is also currently editing a new edition of Paradise Lost for Broadview Press. His first book was Milton and Monotheism (2009), and he was the General Editor of the five-volume edition of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (2006-7).