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Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar (NLUS) 2020

Shakespeare’s Afterlives: Literature, Philosophy, Politics, and the Visual Arts, 1623–2020

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Applications Due:
October 1, 2019, 11:59pm

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What topics will be discussed in NLUS 2020?

This seminar will explore how Shakespeare’s legacy has been shaped by the transmission of his writing in multiple contexts, from the seventeenth century to the present.

Download 2020 Brochure

What is the Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar?

The Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar (NLUS) provides an opportunity for DePaul undergraduates to participate in an intensive seminar and produce an original research project using the world-renowned collections of the Newberry Library. This is an especially important opportunity for students considering graduate study in history or the humanities.

Up to five DePaul students will be selected to participate in this seminar along with students from UIC, Roosevelt, and Loyola universities. During the first part of the course, students investigate topics related to the seminar’s theme and work with the various types of resources that the Newberry has to offer. Then, under the guidance of the instructors and using primary sources from the Newberry, they select a topic to explore and develop into a research paper and presentation. The seminar is team-taught by instructors from different disciplines. (See below for more information on this year's instructors.)

This is a semester-long seminar that meets at the Newberry Library (Clark/Division stop on the CTA's Red line). Participating DePaul students will earn 9 hours of credit in two disciplines, enrolling in 4.5 credits during winter quarter 2020 and 4.5 credits in spring quarter 2020. (Students must complete the semester-long course to receive credit for either quarter.) The two departments or programs in which the student earns credit for NLUS participation will be determined by the student in consultation with his or her advisor and the relevant departments or programs.

Participation in NLUS also can be used to satisfy the Liberal Studies "Experiential Learning" requirement.

DePaul applicants should go ahead and register for WQ 2020 courses as they would otherwise. They should nonetheless be prepared to drop one course and to make Tuesday and Thursday afternoons available if they are accepted into NLUS. Applicants will know by Thanksgiving if they have been accepted.

Special Note for History majors: Successful completion of the Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar in some cases can satisfy the gateway-capstone sequence requirement for HST majors (fulfilling the equivalent of a 300-level HST course and HST 390).

Admission to the seminar is by application, and spaces are limited.
The application deadline is October 1, 2019, 11:59 pm.
Ready to apply? Apply now!

  1. Written Statement: A written statement (maximum 500 words) explaining your preparation and reasons for participation in the Newberry Library seminar. You should discuss your interest in the topic , courses that you have taken and experiences that you have had that prepare you for the seminar, and the ways in which you see this seminar relating to your short-term and long-term educational and/or career plans. Please include a discussion of your experience conducting academic research.
  2. Writing Sample: This should be a copy of a recent research paper or analytical essay (paper containing a thesis statement supported by evidence and analysis) that you have written for a college course.
  3. Unofficial DePaul transcript: You can print out a copy from Campus Connection.
  4. Brief Letter of Recommendation from Faculty Member: All applications require one letter of recommendation from a professor who is familiar with your work and can attest to your readiness to do intensive interdisciplinary study and independent library research. It should be sent to Prof. Tikoff via e-mail (to The letter need not be long, but please give your recommender ample time to write it and submit it by the application deadline. If your recommender has any questions, please have him or her contact Valentina Tikoff at 773-325-1570, or

Shakespeare is everywhere. Four centuries after his works first appeared in print and on stage in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, new productions of the plays are produced daily around the globe, while film and television adaptations transform his works, repeatedly renewing them for modern audiences. References to Shakespeare’s language are impossible to avoid. Some call the latest political scandal “much ado about nothing,” even as the accused complains about the “slings and arrows” they must endure from their critics. Philosophers contemplate the meaning of Hamlet’s delay or Iago’s enigmatic statement “I am not what I am.” A copy of Shakespeare’s collected works circulated secretly in South Africa’s Robben Island prison, where it was read and signed by political dissidents including Nelson Mandela. As one becomes more familiar with Shakespeare, these cultural references seem to multiply exponentially.

For modern readers, Shakespeare is an unprecedented literary genius, an author with a reputation borne out by the 1623 “First Folio” printing of his collected plays. But Shakespeare’s legacy has not always been so certain. His works appeared in different forms—productions and editions, artworks, commentaries—from the moment of his death. This seminar will explore how Shakespeare’s afterlife has been shaped by the transmission of his writing across the intervening centuries. Unsatisfied with the depressing ending of King Lear, the Irish poet Nahum Tate rewrote the play in 1681 with a happy ending. In the 18th century, cultural luminaries including Samuel Johnson and David Garrick would reimagine the plays to suit their age. Garrick, an actor and playwright, would elevate Shakespeare to the level of British national poet when he organized the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Shakespeare inspired artwork by masters including Sir Joshua Reynolds, Henri Fuseli, and John Everett Millais, as well as copiously illustrated editions of the collected plays. Modern philosophers drew on Shakespeare for insight, as Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche among others engaged with the ideas they found in his plays. Shakespeare was central to the great thinkers of modernity, including Freud and Marx, and as a standard part of the grammar curriculum in the U.K. and the U.S., his work has been taken up, bowdlerized, and abridged for generations of schoolchildren.

Drawing on the rich archive of material related to Shakespeare and his afterlives in the Newberry Library, this course will be organized around four disciplinary areas—Literature and Bibliography, Politics and Education, Philosophy, the Visual Arts. We will read selections of Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays alongside materials from the archive and scholarship on changing attitudes toward Shakespeare in the centuries since his plays were first produced. The focus will be on the material traces Shakespeare left behind in the library’s collections, as well as the influence and evolution of his legacy over the past four hundred years.

Over the course of the semester, students will be introduced to the many different kinds of materials housed in the library, including rare books, playbills, educational materials, political and philosophical works, and visual materials including broadsides, book illustrations, prints, paintings and sculptures. In the process of engaging with these materials, each member of the seminar will develop a research project that will be the focus of their time during the second half of the course.

The course will be taught by Drs. Megan Heffernan and James Knapp.

Megan Heffernan is on the English Department faculty at DePaul University. View bio

James Knapp is on the English Department faculty at Loyola University Chicago. View bio

For questions or more information

Contact Prof. Valentina Tikoff at or 773-325-1570.