Life Is But a Dream

The topic of this popular song is the central issue of many major works of European literature in the Baroque era of the 15th and 16th centuries, a time which many see as a forerunner of modern Western consciousness. Using two of the greatest plays in Spanish and English, Calderon de la Barca’s Life Is a Dream and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the course will investigate the question of what it might mean socially and morally if all human reality were indeed illusory. What if human actions had no consequences? What if power over people and things had no limit? These troubling questions are raised by these texts. Answers are developed in the historical context of the works and their authors, couched in the literary conventions of the day.

Instructor: Herbert A. Arnold

Four Mondays
4:30–6 P.M. in the Butterfield room
March 28; April 4, 11, 18
Herbert A. Arnold
Herbert A. Arnold is Professor of German Studies and Letters, Emeritus. He is currently revisiting some of his early research interests, including the European Baroque era, and continuing work on a biographical-historical investigation of Central European history in the 20th century. Most of his work in the past has centered on the intersection between history and literature in a pan-European context. His publications range in time and subject matter from late 15th century manuscripts to contemporary popular culture.