Course schedule
(subject to change, so don't print out once and treat as gospel; refer back regularly)

Class session
Texts, Readings, Resources

Week 1: Jan. 18

Introduction to the course

What does it mean to invent the human?

What is a good life? What makes a life good?

Read for Wednesday: Csikszentmihalyi & flow

Read for Friday: Hamlet excerpts (annotated Hamlet)

Week 2: Jan. 25

Hamlet: What is the meaning of life?

For your first assignment, a writer's kit


Due Monday: First takeaways/residuals, responding to Csikszentmihalyi

Read for Wednesday: Aristotle & Tabensky: Flourishing

Due Friday: Second takeaways/residuals, responding to Aristotle and Tabensky

Week 3: Feb. 1

Finishing Hamlet
The meanings of death and the implications of dying.

More on what happiness is NOT

Your takeaways and residuals on Aristotle and Tabensky
Your takeaways and residuals on the Brickman article

A menu of final project ideas approved so far

Read for Wednesday: Happiness Won't Save You

Due Wednesday: Submit JUST residuals (at least three) for the above linked article on happiness AND completed solitude assignment (2 hours in true solitude), a writeup on what you did and how it benefited you (about two paragraphs)

Week 4: Feb. 8

Finishing up Brickman. Listening to one another (attention!).

Wednesday: Meet the author: Dean Tom Kennedy
Your residuals from Curiosity and the Integrated Self

Juliet: What is love? (be ready to ACT!) (Digital Theater on Act I, scene v)

Due Monday: 1 takeaway, 3 residuals for Curiosity and the Integrated Self

Read for Wednesday: Romeo & Juliet excerpts (full play available here)

Week 5: Feb. 15

What is love? The role of lust, desire? How does this help us with commitments? Attention?

Simulacra and the not-quite-real: DANGER! Shadows (Plato), snow globes, Disney, and the cultural conspiracy of success (Morgan)

Recovery, Rejection, Renovation, Revolution (Booth)

Due Monday: ONE takeaway each for Plato and Booth (one submission)

Read for Friday: Mitchell & The Gift of Fire and submit 3 residual questions (no takeaways)

Week 6: Feb. 22

As You Like It: Education and the Theater of the Mind

What is knowledge? Reason and Unreason? Rationality? When does information become knowledge, knowledge wisdom, and wisdom action?

Your residuals from The Gift of Fire

Wednesday: Workshopping project proposals

Friday: Aquinas, faith and reason (for funsies: God & Physics)

Read for Monday: As You Like It excerpts

Due Monday: A final project proposal (a paragraph or two)

Read for Friday: Dr. Carroll's article on Henry IV and submit 3 residual questions for the author

Week 7: March 1

Falstaff: Why can't we be good? What role does personality and disposition play in the good life, if any? Jack v. Hal: Commitments & Attention. Redemption & Sacrifice. The Pleasure Principle. Snowglobes. What is honor?

Your residuals from Henry IV by Carroll

Haidt's Rider and the Elephant (responses, residuals, and amplification here)

Read for Monday: Haidt's The Divided Self and submit a reflection on how the reading does or does not help you understand your own behavior

Week 8: March 8

Iago: What is evil? The radicality of evil? The banality of evil?

Dr. Carroll's lecture notes for our discussions on evil, Iago


View for Monday: The Milgrim Experiment

Week 9: March 15

What is evil? (continued)

Wednesday: Final project check-ins (group up)

Read for Monday: Othello excerpts

Due Friday: Response to Rosenberg: Materialism & Consumption (how you might benefit from Rosenberg going forward, or how the reading helped you think or re-think your behavior and attitudes)

Week 10: March 22

Finish out Othello and evil | Othello and racism

Mindfulness and Consumerism (Rosenberg) | Madeliene's response | Discussion prompts

Listening, Love & Attention

Wednesday: Final project check-ins

Due Wednesday: Action plan (how you will complete the project with timeline; no prescribed format or length)

Read for Friday for a group activity: The White Dove

Week 11: March 29

Finishing Mindfulness and Consumerism

The White Dove: Attention, Listening & Love

Merchant of Venice:
What do we want law to do? Why do we have law? What is or should be the role of mercy? Is there a role for mercy in a system of laws?

Friday: Final project check-ins

Read for Friday: Theory & Practice (of Law) and submit a one-page answer to this week's organizing questions (at left)

Also for Friday: Read Act IV, scene 1 (courtroom scene) of Merchant of Venice


Week 12: April 5

Finishing out Merchant and the law

Is there a role in the good life for intergenerational justice? Obligations as constraints, and an introduction to legacy

Read for Monday: Smith and "intergenerational justice". Submit a response to the question at left.

Week 13: April 12

Living Backwards and "scripts"

The Tempest: Putting away the gardening tools and calling it a day (and a life)

Rollcall of Black lives

Pier Paolo Pasolini (d. 1975)

Hector Berlioz's Romeo & Juliet (in full)

Read for Monday Living Backwards (Ludwig) and submit a response that engages with any of the prompts in "Exploring the Text" at the end of the PDF and connect to our project of better understanding the good life.

Read for Monday/Wednesday: Tempest excerpts

Due Friday: What is the law re-submissions OR previous grade stands

Week 14: April 19

Final project presentations, 10 minutes max each

Monday: Abhi, Sarah, Kelsee, Peyton, Morgan, Moraima

Wednesday: Maria, Madeliene, Kayla, Megan, Ashley

Friday: Maayan, Riley, Sage, Mackenzie, Sterling, Raven

Due this week: Completed final projects & explanations/rationales

Week 15: April 26

Lunch on the Green & Breaking Bread

Last presentations: Sakura and Annabell

What do you want more than anything else (revisited)? What do you desire that would bring you the most joy?

Peppermint Patty awards

A last word from Robin Goodfellow

Leaving the theater of our minds in order to act and to do

>>Roster of final projects



  • Malvolio & Feste: What is wisdom? Piety? Legalism?
  • MacBeth: What if there is nothing else? (existentialism)
  • Cleopatra: She is woman, hear her roar
  • King Lear excerpts, Henry V chorus, A Winter’s Tale dialogue, Midsummer excerpts

pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!

Some digital sources:


Course Description: This course looks to Shakespeare and his vivid characters to explain us as humans, because no one has come closer to capturing human nature in its widest variety as has the Bard. When Shakespeare began to write, there was little systematic study of the human mind and emotions. Shakespeare can be considered to have created the human if we credit the playwright with pioneering the psychological fields in literature and for so utterly altering human consciousness that, after him, the world was a different place and we were different creatures. Of special interest are Shakespeare’s explorations of existence and being (Hamlet), life and personality (Falstaff), love and loss (Romeo & Juliet), family and death (King Lear), and legacy (The Tempest).

Course Purpose & Objectives: Students participating in this learning community will:

  • develop and hone critical thinking and analytical skills, and they will demonstrate the ability to summarize, evaluate, and integrate ideas they encounter in the readings and in discussion;
  • demonstrate an understanding of thematic, character, and plot elements within the plays;
  • acquire a degree of understanding of the ways in which artistic creations add to the human experience and the understanding of the human experience (and, if we are really good, what it means to be human);
  • become better writers (and, therefore, better thinkers, for writing is thinking), and in all phases of the writing project, from ideation to outlining to drafting to revision and incorporating feedback;
  • develop a more expansive imaginative capacity that can be brought to bear on complex problems by allowing those problems to be seen in different contexts, enabling the consideration of potential consequences and contingencies, and, therefore, choosing well.

In short, it is the instructor’s goal that as a result of this course experience, students will be better able to think well, to write well, and to choose well.

Assessment of progress toward these learning outcomes will occur in the conversation that is discussing, responding, writing, submitting, receiving feedback, revising, and further discussing the themes and questions of the course. In empirical or numeric terms, this assessment will become manifest in the grading of submitted work by applying the rubrics appended to this syllabus. The minimum threshold or standard for all submitted work for the course is 70%.

Some organizing questions

The aptly named Richard Scholar said of Shakespeare’s stage that it is “no lecture hall in which the playwright transmits his opinions through the voices of actors; it is, rather, a controlled environment in which he experiments with the stuff of human lives.” It is this “stuff” that we will be interested in. Thus, some of our organizing questions will be:

  • What does it mean to be human? Can one choose one’s own being? One’s own fate? How can one create his or her life? To what end(s)? Why?
  • What is a good life? What makes a life “good” (or not good)?
  • What is or should be the “meaning” of our lives?
  • What is love? What is it NOT? What is goodness? What is evil?
  • What is the role of drama, fiction, literature, and the arts in seeking, making, determining a good life? Are there truths only fiction can tell?
  • What is “nation”? What are other ways of organizing as a people?
  • Can we think beyond the limits of the regime or government under which we live, as Shakespeare was able to do?
  • Can we imagine a world beyond the horizons of our own historical moment, as Shakespeare was able to do?
  • Can we use Shakespeare’s arts to reflect and comment on life, humanity, and the good life for our improvement?

What you need (required)

  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, in any form. They are available online for free here:
  • A real, physical notebook.
  • Access to a stable internet connection capable of streaming video.
  • Access to a webcam with microphone.
  • Internet browser able to access websites with HTML5 videos.

What you may want (recommended but not required):

Stuff you need to know:

Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
Office: Laughlin Hall 100
Office phone: 368.6944
Home page:
Blog: Wandering Rocks

Office hours: MWF: 1-4 pm; T: 2-4 pm | by appointment | walk-ins are welcome

Class format

We will rely on each other, especially in discussion, and there will be a lot of discussion. So, come to class with an attitude, mindset and disposition to discuss, debate, participate, and interact. In other words, lean in to the course, not back. Do NOT come to class in passive mode, as a lurker or mere observer. This course is a verb. The basic format: Read (or view or both), discuss, write, repeat. We will spend Mondays introducing the week’s themes, questions, and play(s). On Wednesdays and Fridays, we typically will discuss the questions. We will also use Fridays to discuss our assignments, projects, and activities.

We will attempt to meet face-to-face as much or as often as we possibly and safely can. The classroom is outfitted with a webcam, so authorized remote attendance will be possible, if authorized. Authorization can come either from the instructor, provost, dean of students, or Academic Success Center. Non-authorized remote “attendance” will not count as attendance; you will be recorded as having been absent. Attendance will be recorded and archived on Canvas, which is the primary learning platform for the course. The course is over-filled, so, depending on distancing requirements, it is possible that the group will be divided into two sections, with each section alternating between in-class attendance and remote attendance via Zoom.

Data show that wearing a mask in public can help prevent the spread of Covid. In accordance with Georgia Department of Public Health regulations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Berry College has determined that everyone will be required to wear a face covering in college buildings, including classrooms. You MUST wear a face covering appropriately (i.e., covering both your mouth and nose) in the building if you are attending class in person.

Students should be mindful of the distancing guidelines for this course and be sure they are situated in a seat that is designated to ensure that distance. Anyone attending class in person without a face covering will be asked either to put one on or leave. Students who refuse to wear face coverings appropriately or adhere to other stated requirements may face disciplinary action for Viking Code Conduct violations. Students who believe they cannot wear a face covering for health reasons should consult with Accessibility Resources regarding possible accommodations. Students who are experiencing Covid-related symptoms should not attend class in person. 

Class policies

  • Attendance is a part of your grade. Be here every day on time, just as you would for a job, surgery or even a haircut. Everyone gets one unexcused absence or late arrival, maybe two, with no questions asked. Stuff happens. After that, unexcused and/or unexplained absences (and/or lateness) will result in point deductions from the "professionalism and participation" portion of your grade -- one point for each unexcused absence and/or late arrival. What is excused is at the instructor's discretion, so you are best served by discussing situations and extraordinary circumstances prior to class whenever possible.
  • Professionalism in the classroom: The instructor needs your attention and your respect, as do your peers. And this instructor is easily distracted. This means zero unauthorized device use, including Apple watches for texts. Put your phones away, and make sure they are silent. Do homework for other classes somewhere else. If your phone goes off on class, or if you are seen texting or reading texts, etc., you will be treated as absent, with appropriate point deductions. This is about respect.
  • Preparation: Complete the assignments, do the readings and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss, even to debate.
  • Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will result in automatic failure on the assignment in question. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, unauthorized collaboration, plagiarism, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, and aiding and abetting. For definitions of these terms, please consult the instructor. Additionally, violators will be reported in writing to the Provost. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.”

How you will be graded:

Proof of preparation (reading quizzes, writing responses, and the like) 35%
Final project (think piece, script, videography -- other ideas welcome) 40%
Professionalism and participation 25%

To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

59 and below

Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

A theory about human nature with respect to grades: Most human beings turn out average work most of the time. Many can do superior work. Of that “many,” most can and sometimes do excellent work. The factors involved are obvious: native intellect, gifts from the Creator, interest, desire to succeed, desire to learn, discipline, and sheer hard work. The first two are beyond anyone’s control. The others, however, are entirely within our control.


  1. Proof of preparation: The vast majority of these assignments will involve writing. Components to grades, therefore, include demonstrated engagement with the reading or viewing (or both), creativity, quality of insights and questions, and writing quality. Writing counts a lot, so spend time revising and editing, and consider taking your work to the Writing Center. First drafts are just that – a first attempt to get something on paper.   
  2. Final or cumulative project: We will discuss the possibilities for this in class, but the instructor will take a liberal view on this. Whether the project is a traditional paper, a short film, a script for a play, or some other creative expression, the goal will be to demonstrate fulfillment of the course SLOs. Each student’s final project must be approved or authorized by the instructor before beginning the work.  
  3. Note that professionalism is a significant portion of your grade. On-time attendance, active participation, demonstrated preparation and overall professionalism are aspects of this. Please see the policies section for details on how points are won and lost.

Late submissions: Get the assigned work in on time. Missing a deadline means losing points. Quizzes cannot be made up. Allowances for medical situations require documentation. If your work is going to be late, let the professor know or risk that work not being accepted and, therefore, receiving zero points for the assignment.

Academic Success Resources

The Academic Success Center provides free peer tutoring and individual academic consultations to all Berry College students in both in The Commons (located on the first floor of Memorial Library) and online. ASC Sessions (drop in question-and-answer sessions with our student staff) are available. The schedule is posted on the ASC website:]. Individual academic consultations are an opportunity for students to meet one-on-one with an Academic Consultant to work on study skills and strategies. The goal of these meetings is to help students study smarter, not harder.  Students can sign up for an individual academic consultation at the same URL. Questions about these resources can be directed to Kinsey Farmer, coordinator for peer-to-peer programs,

Students with special needs

The Academic Success Center provides accessibility resources, including academic accommodations, to students with diagnosed differences and/or disabilities. If you need accommodations for this or other classes, please visit for information and instructions. You may also visit the ASC offices in Evans Hall 106 or reach out at 706-233-4080.

And a final note from the instructor

This is a one-time, one-off course, so it is very much a work-in-progress. Unlike the instructor’s other courses, not every aspect of this one is clean and shiny and bolted to the floor. We will rely on each other to make the course work. Having said this, the course does grow out of a lifelong love affair with Shakespeare, so trust the big picture, the overall plan, the project, and the experience. To put it another way, we are setting off on a journey, and the ship captain knows where we are going and basically how we are going to get there, but we will be using a compass and the sun, not a GPS. We won’t always know exactly where we are. So, we all row.

If we meaningfully, thoughtfully work together as partners in this, the guarantee is that this course will be one of only the handful of courses you will remember and continue to have a conversation with for the rest of your life. If, on the other hand, you are mainly interested in or pre-occupied with your grade, or polishing your resume for medical school, or something other than engaging with the organizing questions of the course, please drop it from your schedule. No hard feelings. Similarly, if you believe that as a writer you are an expert, already the writer you wish to be, please drop. This learning community will comprise writers who believe they can become yet better, and who are willing to do the work to do it.

Also implied in a course journey like this one is the necessity of an open mind. As an honors course in the liberal arts, it is transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary. We engage with the fields and disciplines of philosophy, literature and poetry, politics, history, drama, rhetoric, and even law. We will think about race, gender, class, and culture. We will ask questions in all sorts of modes – theologically, romantically, spiritually, hedonistically, politically. It’s so crazy it just might work! The Bard abides!

“O this learning, what a thing it is!”
--The Taming of the Shrew

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