Program Highlights

Group at Anne Hathaway's cottage

Group at Anne Hathaway's cottage.

Student Spotlight

2011 Putnam Team

Mitch Raftery greets Prince Charles during a parade on the streets of Stratford.

English 355

Studies in British Literature:  "Summer Shakespeare:  Billy's Kitchen"

13 June–1 July, with pre-trip meetings on campus 10 June–12 June  

The course meets the Experiencing Liberal Arts in the World (ELAW) requirement under the Core, and it fulfills an elective in English.  

Course Description

“Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table.”  —As You Like It, 2.7

While based in Stratford-upon-Avon and focused primarily on consumption in Shakespeare’s plays, this course will also consider the importance of food and foodways in the creation of British literature and culture from the Renaissance through the present day.  Starting with moments of material consumption and food imagery within Shakespeare’s texts, students will further consider consumption as a metaphor for writing and staging Renaissance drama as well as for producing and reading British novels, memoirs, and cookbooks.  Even further, students will examine the workings of consumption in Stratford itself, from enjoying a cream tea on Henley Street (an anachronism, given that tea wasn’t a ritual in England until the 18th century) to partaking of high-end Indian food on Sheep Street (a post-colonial culinary experience).  Included in the tour are lectures with world-renowned scholars, performances at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) and the Globe Theatre in London, talk-back sessions with Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) actors, acting workshops with RSC facilitators, and visits to the five Shakespeare Trust museums, all of which will be linked to additional lectures, day trips, and writing assignments focused on the kitchen and table as dual loci of identity formation, both for individuals as well as for the British nation.  As such, the tour will include, for instance, a session on Renaissance food and foodways, an afternoon at Mary Arden’s engaging in 17th-century farming techniques, and a display of original Renaissance cookbooks and herbals, among other events.  Coursework covers pre-trip lectures at St. Mary’s campus for one week prior to leaving for England; once across the pond, group activities will last for 16 days, followed by a free weekend for further study or travel on an individual basis. 

The stage of the Globe Theatre, set for The Merry Wives of Windsor

Plays at the RST and Globe run the gamut of Shakespeare’s works, including the most popular (The Merchant of VeniceAs You Like ItKing Lear) and the little known (King JohnCymbelineMeasure for Measure). As part of this course, students will read and discuss each text with SMCM faculty as well as with members of the Shakespeare Centre faculty before attending any plays. After viewing a production, students will further study the text through performance history, including talk-back sessions with RSC actors.  In addition, students will also read British food texts that connect to, yet also move beyond, the Renaissance, including Victorian domestic manuals, British novels with recipes, and modern-day cookbooks that (in an updated format) echo Renaissance constructions of the kitchen.  And, finally, students will regularly eat and cook together—thereby participating, themselves, as literary-culinary adventurers within the national foodscape of England.

Sam Ives

Sam Ives during makeup and wigs demonstration.

Alex in a field

Alex Vaughan surveys the countryside at Anne Hathaway's cottage.  Shakespeare almost certainly would have walked these grounds during his courtship with Anne.

Fun Fact:  As part of the course, students will have access to the holdings of The Shakespeare Centre library.  The Library houses both archival material on Shakespeare in Stratford (e.g., a will and deeds known to bear Shakespeare’s signature) as well as magnificent material on all productions during the long history of the RSC (e.g., on costuming, staging, etc.), including such famous performances as Kenneth Branagh’s versions of Hamlet or Henry V; Derek Jacobi’s rendition of Macbeth; Patrick Stewart’s interpretation of Shylock; Ben Kingsley’s representation of Othello; or Ralph Fiennes’ presentation of Henry VI.