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Seminar: Cleopatra


Cleopatra is one of the most iconic women of all time.  Her personal history rivals in interest the history of her appropriation by various Western cultures in various time periods.  This course begins with her biography, which entails her very first public images, both those she herself projected and those that Augustan Romans fashioned.  When Shakespeare created his own image of her in Antony and Cleopatra by adapting and subverting the Roman Plutarch's rendition of her as the toxic seductress of Marc Antony, a second icon entered the historical panorama.  Now the English playwright was subject to adaptation and appropriation by such competitive literary figures as Restoration playwright John Dryden and, later, George Bernard Shaw.  Centuries after Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra herself endures as an icon who attracts icons, none more notable than the glamorous Elizabeth Taylor, whose recently re-released film portrayal of the Egyptian queen is now over fifty years old.  Throughout this course, students will explore how various iconic figures have appropriated Cleopatra- as a woman, an exotic, and a royal- for their audiences: what does a particular version of Cleopatra reveal or suggest about the historical period or social milieu in which she emerges?  What is her relationship to her appropriator?  The course ends with a contemplation of Cleopatra and Taylor as iconic complements.  Are they femmes fatales or feminists? 

Satisfies a major and minor requirement in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Fulfills the Historical Approaches requirement of the English major.


Not open to first-year students and sophomores without instructor's permission.