Michael Schoenfeldt

Nov 6, 2023

Shakespeare's Sonnets Part 1

A Discussion with Michael Schoenfeldt

New Books Network 2023

The sonnet — a 14-line poem with a strict rhyme scheme, conventionally associated with love — was one of the most popular poetic forms in late Elizabethan England. In 1609, Shakespeare published a sequence of 154 sonnets that radically reimagined the question of what love can mean, including the question of who one might desire and what the experience of desire might be like. In the course, you’ll learn about the structure and history of the sonnet, hear individual sonnets of Shakespeare’s performed and analyzed by world-class actors and literary scholars, and discover how gender, status, and race intersect to shape this sonnet sequence. In Part 1, you’ll be guided through a history and overview of Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence with commentary by Michael Schoenfeldt, John R. Knott, Jr. Collegiate Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. You’ll learn about the sonnet form and how it came to England from Renaissance Italy, what attracted Shakespeare to this form, and what attracted audiences to Shakespeare’s poetry. You’ll also discover the literary mysteries surrounding the sonnets that have intrigued readers for centuries, and how Shakespeare took this traditional form in unexpected directions.

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