2022 Summer Program


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Class #53

Power & Justice In Shakespeare & Baldwin

Betsy Lovell Arsenault

July 17 - July 23, 2022


instructor imageIn his late “comedy,” Measure for Measure, Shakespeare introduces a number of concerns about the nature and responsibilities of power in relation to justice and punishment. The Duke, the main character, appears on the one hand the epitome of understanding, insight and probity when he is disguised as a friar, despite his having yielded his authority to someone he himself does not respect. On the other, however, he toys with his subjects when he returns and before he renders judgment in such a way as to make them all fearful. The result is that the play raises serious questions about the moral purposes of punishment, about the role that class and gender play in judgment, and about the proper exercise of power to condemn to death or grant mercy. All these and more issues are introduced, with a conclusion that is problematic if seemingly “happy.”

Four hundred and more years later, these concerns continue to plague many countries, but we in the United States have become particularly aware of the inequitable ways in which physical and legal powers are exercised in both our justice and our policing institutions, especially as they relate to different races and social classes. We will see if Shakespeare’s themes can connect to current affairs from two contemporary novels, If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin, and Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, a novel that spans the centuries between Shakespeare and 2021. The class’s exploration will be further enhanced by several essays that will be distributed during class. Clearly, this topic is huge, but through these authors we may get a glimpse of some of the feelings and philosophies that affect those both inside and outside the justice system.

Betsy Lovell Arsenault graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in English. Three years after she finished at Swarthmore, she decided she could no longer resist the powerful call of teaching and attended the University of Chicago for an M.A.T. in English, subsequently taking a job at a high school in a south suburb of Chicago. After an interesting but turbulent year in that school, she moved to New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois and surprised herself by staying there 32 years, with an additional ten added on for long-term subbing and tutoring. She continues to read for both fun and further education and has taken a variety of courses in her spare time.

Betsy will contact students prior to class.
We expect to use the following editions: the Pelican Shakespeare Measure for Measure (ISBN 978-0-14-313173-1), James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk (ISBN 978-0-307-27593-6), and Homegoing (ISBN 978-1-101-97106-2).

Level: All levels

Pricing (per person):
$1180 Dorm Room Package*
$1280 Two-Person Room Package*
$1920 Single-Person Room Package* (limited availability)
$675 Commuter Package** (limited availability)

*package includes tuition, lodging & 16 meals
**package includes tuition & 7 meals


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