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English 353: Stories Retold

Course meets TR 3:30-4:45 in Coulter 203

In this class, we will be looking at stories inspired or provoked by William Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare wrote or co-wrote at least 37 plays and probably as many as 40 or 41. However, just a few inspired revisions, and these so numerous that we will not be able to look at them all. Modern authors and film makers have been especially inspired by these plays: Macbeth, Hamlet, The Tempest, King Lear, Othello, Twelfth Night, and Midsummer Night's Dream. (Revisions of Romeo and Juliet abound, but they are often vampire mashups, musicals, or young adult fiction). See a partial list of adaptations.

We'll be talking about why so many authors are so inspired by these plays, and we'll be asking ourselves why these authors use Shakespeare and why, more importantly, they are challenged to revise and alter his works. For this reason, we will also be reading a few Shakespeare plays in the original. We will use plenty of tools--audio, film, and acitivites--to help with the language, which was written in what we call the "early modern period," in a concentrated period between 1590 and 1613. During this time, the language was changing rapidly, and many new words were added. In fact, Shakespeare himself coined around 500 new words, many of which we still use, and hundreds of phrases we still use.

You don't have to know anything about Shakespeare to take this course. You will be doing a lot of reading, but the assignments aren't difficult if you do the work. The main thing I look for is thoughtfulness, detail, and evidence that you've done the reading. I only grade grammar for the formal paper, though I may make recommendations to you if I notice you're having certain writing difficulties.

Books to buy

A note on texts: If you have another edition of Shakespeare you can use it. You can also use free kindle editions. However, while you may bring kindles or other e-readers to class, you may not bring or use a laptop in my classroom unless you need one because of a documented disability. Furthermore, any texting, emailing, browsing, or social media use won't be tolerated, and you'll be marked absent for that day. (See digital incivility, below).

A second note: I have provided links to the texts on Amazon; these are sometimes cheaper, but you have to pay shipping. You are also welcome to use other editions of these books. However, I will be using page numbers from editions listed above, and you'll be responsible for translating (I will refer to passages in Shakespeare by acts, scenes, and lines). Also, please make sure you have books here on time. I recognize that financial aid sometimes comes late, but you are responsible for reading material and being prepared to discuss it by the assigned date.

Finally, I expect you to have texts in class and open on the days we discuss them. I will assign a 1/2 absence if you don't have them.


15% Quizzes*
15% Short writing assignments
15% Blackboard Discussion forum (group discussions and whole class discussions)
20% Paper (deadline in parts)
15% Group presentation++ (includes log and individual essay about each member's participation)
10% Final
10% Participation (I'm serious about it)

*A note on quizzes: For all quizzes, check syllabus to see if quiz guide link is active. The quiz guide link is listed in the right-hand column of the previous class; that column is headed "homework for next class." If a quiz is scheduled, the link will be active 24 hours before class begins. To make sure you're looking at the most recent version of the page, hit CTRL + F5 (PC) or Apple + R / Command + R (Apple).

++A note on group presentations. Besides the required novels and plays you'll be reading, you'll be assigned to a group. As part of your work for that group, you will watch at least one additional film and read at least one additional novel based on one of the Shakespeare's plays listed above (Macbeth, Hamlet, Tempest, Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Othello, or Lear). (See a list of adaptations here). You'll investigate additional novels and films as a group, and you'll have online discussions about the works you're reading. (You cannot reread a book we looked at as a class.) As a group, you'll then present your findings. As part of that assignment, you'll also need to keep a log of each group member's participation in the group presentation / discussions and reflect on that at the end of the semester.


Attendance policy

This class meets twice a week, so I begin lowering your grade by one letter after four missed classes. That includes excused or unexcused absences; I don't care why you're absent. However, here are some good tips regarding attendance:

  • Don't schedule doctor's appointments during my class.
  • Don't schedule makeup classes or exams for other instructors during my class.
  • Don't shedule rehearsals, trips home, family reunions, or trips to see your significant other during my class.
  • Don't leave my class before it is over or arrive more than 10 minutes after it has begun. I count those as absences.
  • Frequent lateness equals an absence.
  • Try to save your absences for illness and emergencies.
  • Above all, find out what you missed and what's required for the next class. You are responsibe for all missed material. I don't like emails asking if you missed anything.

I do excuse university absences when I am required to do so (university sponsored trips, etc.) but I expect you to find out what you missed and do the work you missed.

Digital incivility

You may use an ebook reader in my class, but please don't use a computer, phone, or laptop for anything else. Turn your phones off and put them away (not in your lap or on your desk). If I discover that you're on Facebook, email, texting, browsing, or using any digital resources except for our textbook, I will mark you absent and ask you to leave.

If you need to use a computer to take notes or if you have a disability that requires the use of certain tools, please let me know in advance.

I reserve the right to check your computer's screen to make sure you're following my policy. If you put it away when I try to look at it, I will assume you are breaking my rules and will mark you absent and ask you to leave.

Academic integrity policy and process

This policy addresses academic integrity violations of undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate students should read inside the parenthesis below to identify the appropriate entities in charge of that step of the process.

Students, faculty, staff, and administrators of Western Carolina University (WCU) strive to achieve the highest standards of scholarship and integrity. Any violation of the Academic Integrity Policy is a serious offense because it threatens the quality of scholarship and undermines the integrity of the community. While academic in scope, any violation of this policy is by nature, a violation of the Code of Student Conduct and will follow the same conduct process (see ArticleVII.B.1.a.). If the charge occurs close to the end of an academic semester or term or in the event of the reasonable need of either party for additional time to gather information timelines may be extended at the discretion of the Department of Student Community Ethics (DSCE).

Violations of the Academic Integrity Policy include:

  • Cheating - Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in any academic exercise.
  • Fabrication – Creating and/or falsifying information or citation in any academic exercise.
  • Plagiarism - Representing the words or ideas of someone else as one’s own in any academic exercise.
  • Facilitation - Helping or attempting to help someone to commit a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy in any academic exercise (e.g. allowing another to copy information during an examination)

Any violation of the Academic Integrity Policy will result in no less than failure of the assignment and, if aggregious enough, failure of the course. I report all violations to Student Community Ethics. I am required to meet with you to discuss any violations,and will withold your grade until you have attended that meeting and signed all required forms.

WCU instructors reserve the right to use plagiarism prevention software (such as SafeAssignment.com), library resources, as well as Google, Yahoo, and/or other Internet search engines to determine whether or not student papers have been plagiarized. With plagiarism prevention software, instructors may upload student papers into a
searchable database or teach students how to upload their own work as part of the course requirements.

Disability statement 

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Western Carolina University is committed to providing equal educational opportunities for students with documented disabilities and/or medical conditions.  Students who require reasonable accommodations must identify themselves as having a disability and/or medical condition and provide current diagnostic documentation to Disability Services.  All information is confidential.  Please contact the Office of Disability Services for more information at (828) 227-3886 or lalexis@wcu.edu  You may also visit the office’s website:  disability.wcu.edu 

Dr. Mary Adams, instructor
last updated 12-jan-14