Dr. Maura O’Connor

This course will explore the connections and disconnections between popular and elite culture from sixteenth-century England when Shakespeare wrote most of his plays to early twentieth-century Spain and France when Picasso painted.

Neither Shakespeare’s writings nor Picasso’s paintings would be considered part of popular culture today. How and why did this happen? Shakespeare’s plays were so popular they were parodied by poor and working-class men and women in nineteenth-century America, especially in the south. Why is it then that so many students think that the only way to understand or appreciate Shakespeare’s plays or Picasso’s paintings is to take a class on the subject?

As access to education has become more democratic, access to culture has not in many ways. This is the conundrum and question at the heart of this course. By focusing our study on the stage, the canvas,  and the changing spaces of musical performance,  we will come to understand more about not only the evolution of taste and art, but the historical context for these cultural changes and attitudes.

This course will be designed to fulfill the 4000-level requirements of the History Department meaning that it will guide students through an original research project that will utilize both primary and secondary sources and entail significant writing.