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Shakespeare Authorship Studies MA

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  • Objectives
    This MA will examine the creation of Shakespeare as a cultural phenomenon. What historical developments contributed to the making of this English – and international – literary icon? Close textual analysis of a number of Shakespeare’s writings will reveal how Shakespeare is not one, but many: how does knowledge of Shakespeare’s collaborations with other playwrights, actors and theatrical companies affect our understanding of his individual genius? Finally, we consider the Shakespeare Authorship Question itself. Rather than promoting an alternative candidate as the author of Shakespeare’s works, we analyse the question as a subject of perennial interest and debate.
  • Entry requirements
    Entry Requirements You should have a good honours degree in a relevant area such as English Literature. Applicants with relevant practical experience and/or professional qualifications will also be considered.
  • Academic Title
    Shakespeare Authorship Studies MA
  • Course description
    CCourse Summary

    This new MA programme, the first of its kind in the world, tackles the subject of Shakespeare and Authorship in all its diversity. We interrogate the mythologisation of Shakespeare, and examine the effects of collaboration on notions of authorship, value, genius, and authority. The programme also considers the enormously controversial phenomenon of the Shakespeare Authorship Question. Students will benefit from high-profile guest lecturers, and from the proximity of the world’s leading research libraries: the British Library and the Bodleian.

    This MA considers how the desire for a national and global icon produced the Shakespeare industry. Through close textual analysis of Shakespeare’s writings, it reveals the impact on the ‘Shakespeare’ corpus of collaboration with other writers. It also raises the spectre of the Shakespeare Authorship Question: rather than promoting an alternative to the ‘man from Stratford’, we analyse the actual social and cultural phenomenon that is the Authorship Question itself. Why is this debate of such perennial interest?

    Course Details

    The programme runs over three terms. One module per term will take place in the evenings, allowing students who wish to carry on working full-time the opportunity to take the MA part-time. The taught part of the programme runs over terms one and two. In term three, which runs from Easter to summer, you embark on your major project which will be a critical essay.

    The modules available include:

        * The Making of Shakespeare: This module examines the historical construction of Shakespeare as a cultural icon. It considers the known facts of Shakespeare’s life, the production of the First Folio, the deification process beginning in the eighteenth century, the ‘capturing’ of Shakespeare by/for academia and the centrality of Shakespeare to modern academic practice.

        * Shakespeare the Collaborator: This module considers Shakespeare’s collaborations with his contemporaries through close reading of specific texts such as Henry VIII and Pericles. Students also engage in analysing plays which have not (yet) been deemed collaborative, with a view to producing new and independent views.

        * The Shakespeare Authorship Question: What are the alternatives to Shakespeare as author? Outside speakers put their case to students, who will assess the historical and cultural context of this century-old debate.

        * Research Methodologies: The module will contain an overview of relevant intellectual, aesthetic and cultural issues and provide specific research, bibliographic and writing skills for early-modern research.

        * Final Major Project: A critical essay of 15,000-18,000 words.

    Sample Programme Handbook

    Special Features

    Resources and Location
    The location of Brunel in London places it most conveniently for Shakespeare studies, close to The Globe, to Stratford-upon-Avon, the British Library and Senate House. Students can thereby study and immerse themselves in the key facilities for Shakespeare Studies in the UK. Furthermore, Brunel possesses an archive of texts concerning the subject of Shakespeare and Authorship. Brunel offers an MA designed and taught by experts both in mainstream Shakespeare studies and in the previously marginalised area of the Shakespeare authorship question.

    All students will engage in a range of reading, research and analytical practices that will provide a deep understanding of the social and cultural processes which have contributed to the construction of Shakespeare as a cultural and national icon. This MA seeks to promote a high level of independent thinking and initiative.


    Assessment will be based on the critical essay along with other innovative, task-based projects to promote and assess professional-level research skills. The MA is awarded upon successful completion of all modules and the major project.


    Graduates of this course will be well placed to find employment in the ever expanding field of publishing, journalism and the arts. In addition, their advanced communication and research skills make them ideal candidates for employment in such areas as the culture industries, teaching and, increasingly, business where such skills are now highly valued.

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