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A Short Course About Love: Love in Shakespeare and on Film


Admission requirements


What do we talk about, when we talk about love? This course will explore the representation of romantic love and sexual desire, using two test cases: the plays of William Shakespeare and classic movies from 1940-1990. We shall explore issues surrounding language, identity, jealousy, sexual desire, friendship, the family, marriage, divorce, adultery, art and death. The course will employ an eclectic theoretical framework to contextualise the works we will discuss, from Sigmund Freud to Soren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil to Stanley Cavell, Julia Kristeva to Walter Benjamin. We will also investigate the generic opportunities and limitations of the works we discuss, and will endeavour to place the works within their cultural and historical context.

Course objectives

Concise description of the course objectives formulated in terms of knowledge, insight and skills students will have acquired at the end of the course. The relationship between these objectives and achievement levels for the programme should be evident.

  • Course objective 1
    This course will extend and deepen the power of students’ critical analysis through in-depth consideration of texts.

  • Course objective 2
    Students will explore critical debates surrounding Shakespeare’s plays and cinema.

  • Course objective 3
    The course will aim to provide for literature students the critical skills necessary for the analysis of visual texts. This will involve an understanding of: basic film theory; the uses of the frame and editing; the place of the ‘star’; the nature of genre; and the ‘auteur theory’.

  • Course objective 4
    Regarding both literary and cinematic art works, it will also aim to extend the students’ skills in the reading of narrative and the understanding of the relationship of a text to its cultural/social context.

  • Course objective 5
    Students will be encouraged to share analytical and critical views on the texts ascribed in class discussion, perhaps including short presentations, and will focus research skills in the writing of a final research paper.

  • Course objective 6
    In their papers, the students will show that they have developed the relevant skills for researching and writing on Shakespeare’s plays and film.

  • Research MA students should reveal in their coursework a more nuanced understanding of the complex relationship between social formations and cultural productions by means of a more detailed and thorough theoretical/methodological framework.


The timetable is available on the Literary Studies website.

WEEK ONE: William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.
WEEK TWO: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, I Know Where I’m
WEEK THREE: William Shakespeare, As You Like It
WEEK FOUR: Billy Wilder, Love in the Afternoon (1957) (film).
WEEK FIVE: William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
WEEK SIX: Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958) (film).
WEEK SEVEN: William Shakespeare, Othello.
WEEK EIGHT: Claude Sautet, Un coeur en hiver (1993)/ Krzysztof Kieslowski, Dekalog 7 (the TV version of A Short Film About Love) (1989)
(we shall watch both films with English subtitles)
WEEK NINE: William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra.
WEEK TEN: Max Ophuls, Letter From An Unknown Woman(1948) (film) / Mervyn LeRoy, Random Harvest (1942).
WEEK ELEVEN: William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale.
WEEK TWELVE: Billy Wilder, The Apartment (1961) (film).

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Lectures: 36

  • Preparation tutorials: 48

  • Study of compulsory literature: 76

  • Assignment(s): 120

Assessment method

Paper. Two essays of 2500 words (50% each); or, one longer essay on a comparative subject (dealing with at least two texts featured on the syllabus) of 5000 words (100%). Both essays must contain a significant element of research. Research MA students will have to write an extra 3000 word paper on a topic to be decided in consultation with the tutor.

All essays will be expected on a date (to be announced) during the exam period. Late / resit essays will be graded, but will not receive any comments.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with additional information/reading material.

Reading list

William Shakespeare:

  • Romeo and Juliet (ed. René Weis) (New Arden)

  • Much Ado About Nothing (ed. Sheldon P. Zitner) (Oxford)

  • As You Like It (ed. Alan Brissenden) (Oxford)

  • Othello (ed. E. A. J. Honigmann, introduction by Ayanna Thomson) (Arden)

  • Anthony and Cleopatra (ed. Michael Neill) (Oxford)

  • The Winter’s Tale (ed. John Pitcher) (Arden).


Enrolment through uSis for classes, exams and final paper for classes, exams and final papers is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies: Jurjen Donkers.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher Dr. M.S. Newton

Literary Studies departmental office

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA


The set reading for week one is William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.