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Unit rationale, description and aim

Any serious study of the Western tradition and our place in it demands engaging with Shakespeare’s fantastically vital expressions of human creativity and imaginative power. His work has found an important place in disciplines and forms of expression as diverse as economics, politics, cognitive science, medicine, literature, art, drama, film, opera, comic books, and video games. His performances are unending in their variety, from the Globe Theatre to Kurosawa to Bollywood to amateur performances in secondary schools and colleges all over the world.

This unit will celebrate and explore Shakespeare’s myriad-mindedness. The unit makes it possible to study not only Shakespeare’s inexhaustible art but also the variety of perspectives one can bring to bear upon his work. For example, in one year the unit may study a wide selection of Shakespeare’s comedies. Another year may focus upon the relationship between Shakespeare and his sources. Still another year might study responses to a single play.

The aim of this unit is to offer students approaches to Shakespeare as myriad-minded and inexhaustible as the author himself. Such myriad-mindedness helps to promote an appreciation of Shakespeare’s art, but also a respect for the dignity of the individual and for human diversity.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Acquire an advanced, integrated, research-based knowledge of Shakespeare together with the conceptual, theoretical, and ethical impacts of texts drawn from, and related to, Shakespeare (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Explain the literary, social, historical, philosophical, political, aesthetic, religious, and /or ethical implications of texts drawn from, and related to Shakespeare (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Critically evaluate and synthesise knowledge, concepts, and theories connected to Shakespeare from diverse sources and communicate complex ideas and findings with sophistication and confidence to a range of audiences in diverse contexts (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Research, develop, and apply disciplinary theories and practices to a range of bodies of knowledge drawn from Shakespeare’s texts (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics and/or texts may include:

  • Shakespeare and his sources
  • The afterlife of Shakespeare in philosophy, politics, psychology, or other disciplines
  • The afterlife of Shakespeare in art, music, dance, or other media.
  • Shakespeare and theories of comedy
  • Shakespeare and theories of tragedy
  • A multi-disciplinary study of a single Shakespeare play, or a selection of Shakespeare’s plays
  • A multi-disciplinary study of some aspects of Shakespeare's poetry.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed and delivered in a small-group attendance mode which facilitates the use of the Socratic method. The Socratic method promotes active and receptive dialogue in which students are encouraged to think for themselves rather than passively receive information, doctrines, or positions.  Rather than ratify ideologies, received ideas, and disciplinary norms in an unquestioning manner, the Socratic method potentially opens every ideological, disciplinary, and critical assumption to question.   

In addition to the close reading of a range of texts, narratives, essays, and art objects, students will participate in writing activities, the interpretation and evaluation of texts, and critical and argumentative debates. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support learning such as reading, reflection, discussion.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This 600-level unit is designed to include assessment tasks that build content knowledge and higher-order research and analytic skills. 

The close reading task requires students to demonstrate a capacity to read a work of Shakespeare’s with patience and attention. Such a task must also learn to cross disciplinary boundaries. As the Unit Rationale, Description and Aim makes clear, and as the Representative Texts and References underscore, Shakespeare has never sat easily within a single disciplinary framework. Hamlet, for example, has been received by the novelists James Joyce and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the political theorist Carl Schmitt, the psychologist Sigmund Freud, the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Walter Benjamin, and the literary critics and cultural historians Stephen Greenblatt and James Schapiro, among many others For this very reason, the student must learn to respond to Shakespeare’s “myriad-mindedness” by responding to Shakespeare in a way that does not sit comfortably within a single disciplinary framework.

The class presentation requires students to present an independent point of view related to the unit content. Such a presentation is intended to train students in effective oral communication, responding to questions and concerns, and communicating to expert as well as non-expert audiences. 

The research essay demands a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary investigation of a topic relating to Shakespeare.

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high-quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with the University’s assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for graduate studies in the subject area. These tasks also intend to build, in a progressive manner, the skills necessary for the two-assessment structure that will be found in the later units.

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Close reading task

This task requires students to produce analyses which cross disciplinary boundaries.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Class presentation

This task requires students to present an independent point of view related to the unit content.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment Task 3: Research task

This task requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of a topic related to Shakespeare, proposed in consultation with the instructor.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Benjamin, Walter, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. by John Osborne (New York: Verso, 2009)

Bullough, Geoffrey, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1957)

Freud, Sigmund, Interpretation of Dreams, trans. by James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 2010)

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, trans. by Eric Blackall(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995)

Greenblatt, Stephen, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics (New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 2019)

Joyce, James, Ulysses (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022)

Marx, Karl, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans. by Martin Milligan(New York: Prometheus Books, 1988)

Nietzsche, Friedrich, On the Genealogy of Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Schmitt, Carl, Hamlet or Hecuba, trans. by Jennifer Rust, et al. (Candor: Telos Press, 2016)

Shapiro, James, Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future (New York: Penguin, 2020)

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