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University of London sponsors online Shakespeare authorship course

Ed: Kevin Gilvary, PhD is the author of The Fictional Lives of Shakespeare (Routledge, 2017) and trustee of the Shakespeare Authorship Trust.

by guest correspondent Kevin Gilvary, PhD



The world's first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the Shakespeare Authorship Question will go live on the Coursera platform on Monday February 19, 2018. The four-week online course, which is completely free, is written and presented by Dr Ros Barber, lecturer in the English and Comparative Literature department at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Director of Research at the Shakespearean Authorship Trust.  It includes interviews with leading authorship doubters including this writer [Professor William Leahy of Brunel University] and Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance. Coursera currently has 30-million registered users and is one of the world's leading providers of free online education.

Registration is now open at https://www.coursera.org/le arn/shakespeare

The Shakespeare authorship question -- the question of whether William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon had any hand in the writing of the plays attribute to him -- has long been taboo in academia. Despite significant interest in the subject among the general public, English Literature academics tend to dismiss it as a subject not worth discussing. For this reason, the launch of a university-sponsored MOOC which explores the Shakespeare authorship question will undoubtedly be controversial.

When the University of London International (UoLIA) Learning, Teaching and Assessment Subcommittee discussed the approval report for the MOOC, the chair -- a literature professor -- gave a glowing report: saying it was ". . . engaging, really engaged critical thinking, and really added something to literary studies."

From the course description:

This MOOC explores critical thinking, and the interpretation of texts, through the Shakespeare authorship question. Using doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship as our playground, we will explore the key concept of authorship attribution, while developing skills in literary analysis, interpretation, and argument. Through forensic exploration of key texts, by both Shakespeare and other writers of the period, you will learn why Shakespeare’s authorship is questioned, and what evidence is cited on both sides of the debate. For those of you interested in exploring the works of Shakespeare from a new angle, or just wanting to hone your analytical thinking skills, this MOOC offers an introduction to a fascinating area of interest. Those of you already interested in the Shakespeare authorship question will be encouraged to question your own assumptions in fruitful ways. Whether undertaken as a standalone course, or as preparation for the University of London BA in English, this MOOC will be food for thought. 
Shakespeare aficionados and novices alike will find something of interest in this course; likewise anyone interested in logical reasoning, literary history, and the use of evidence. It is pitched at a level suitable for foundation year undergraduates. Although it is structured as a 4-week course, you can do it at your own pace.

Anyone can register for this course, at no cost, at https://www.coursera.org/le arn/shakespeare


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