RQ: Hamlet, Intro. & Act 1.1


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Hamlet, Scenes 1.1-1.2. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.


“Who’s there” (1.1.1)?

Who’s there first? Why does Bernardo ask Francisco to disclose himself and not the other way around? What’s implied by this funny, famous opening? Is this a play about trying to find out who’s there and ultimately failing in the attempt?

Why “unfold” (1.1.2)?

What does Francisco mean when he says, “You come very carefully upon your hour” (1.1.4)? Why is Francisco “sick at heart” (1.1.7)?

Why does “rivals”(1.1.11)  mean partners?

Why do Barnardo and Marcellus want Horatio to join them on the watch (1.1.22-26)?

What time is it? What time did Barnardo and Marcellus see the ghost before?

What does the ghost look like? How do the men of the watch know he is the ghost of old Hamlet?

How do they know the ghost “would be spoke to” (1.1.44)?

What’s the first question that Horatio asks the ghost? What does Horatio imply that the ghost “usurp’st” (1.1.45)? Why is the ghost offended by Horatio’s question?

What confirms for Horatio that the ghost is real, or that the ghost is “something more than fantasy” (1.1.53)?

What sort of relationship do the characters have to nature?

According to Horatio what does the appearance of the ghost mean for Demark? What precedent does Horatio site for similar supernatural and portentous events? Did the Romans heed such signs as reanimated corpses, floods, eclipses, and comets?  Do the characters in Hamlet read the signs?

What does the triple repetition of the word “like” (1.1.40, 1.1.43, & 1.1.44) signify? Is the ghost a reanimated corpse OR as is the ghost, as Stephen Greenblatt suggests, “an embodied memory” (212)? But if yes, then what memory or better yet, who’s memory?

What is the boundary between memory and haunting?

For what reasons do the watcher surmise the old king (or something “like” it) has returned from the grave as a ghost?

Why do the actors keep sitting down, (1.1.34, 1.1.69)?

When Horatio, Benardo, and Marcellus look out over the wall, what sort of activities are going on? Why is Denmark preparing for war and against whom?

Why does Horatio couch the description of Fortinbras and the preparation for war in terms that evoke eating?

Why is Horatio who addresses the ghost? Why don’t Marcellus or Bernardo address the ghost? Why did they have to bring in Horatio special?

What three exhortations does Horatio put the ghost?

Who else made three statements before a cock crowed?

Why does Horatio stop questioning the ghost?

What are some reasons the Horatio and Marcellus give for why the ghost disappeared?

How does the first scene establish for the audience that they are about to watch a play that is topsy-turvy, dislocated, or in Hamlet’s own words, “out of joint” (1.5.186)


Herring, “Pathological Collectables” (51-84)

Scott Herring, “Pathological Collectables” (51-84)

Keep the following questions in mind as you read Scott Herring’s, “Pathological Collectables,” (51-84). The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

1. According to Herring why did the cookie jars in Andy Warhol’s effects cause a “minor object panic” (51)?

2. Why do you think that the sale of Warhol’s effects elicited such a wide spread reaction from mainstream news outlets such as Time, The New York Times, and Newsweek, as well as trade publications such as Art and Auction?

Wharhol’s Cookie Jars at Sotheby’s before auction in 1987

3. How does the DSM-5, and psychologist David Greenburg et. al., distinguish “‘normal collecting’” from ‘pathological collecting, or hoarding’” (52-3)? Why might this distinction matter?

4. What subtle linguistic distinction does Herring make by saying, “Shifting the tenor of hoarding as pathological collecting to hoarding as a non-normative engagement with collectables” (53) open up for him?

5. Spend a minute looking at Figure 2.1. (54-5): what sorts of objects are foregrounded? What sorts of objects recede into the background? What do you notice about the ways in which the objects in the picture are arranged? What are some points of contrast/compliment? Who’s the audience for this photo: academics, collectors, people who work at that warehouse? Compare Figure 1.1. to Figure 2.2. (59).

6. When did garage and yard sales become a fixture of US suburban life? What other changes were going in post WWII US that changed the ways that people thought about what can and should count as collectable?

7. What’s the difference between a “collectable” and an “antique”?

8. According to Herring, how did Ralph and Terry Kovel’s “half century of published work” (58) help to facilitate the “institutionalization of collectible goods across the US—the ‘normal collecting’ later cited by scientists I their efforts to further refine hoarding as mental disease” (59)?

9. How does Herring’s “concise history of collectibles relate to the widening divide between normal collecting and pathological hoarders” (60)?

10. How does hoarding “haunt” collectable culture—both the collectors and the things they collect?

11. What motivates a person to become a hoarder?

12. What is unusual about the article Jane Glick and David A. Halperin wrote for Addictive Disorders?

13. What critiques have accounts of collecting/hoarding in material culture studies leveled at the collector/hoarder distinction imposed by psychology research/diagnosis?

14. How does The Andy Warhol Collection, the catalog of stuff from the Warhol estate that Sotheby auctioned, “remain a contradictory testament to modern object taxonomy” (69)?

15. How did the Sotheby’s publication of the auction catalogue, The Andy Warhol Collection, “reinforce the notion that Andy” was a mad collector, hoarder, and a pack-rat? OR, why do collection guides/catalogues provide a reaction readers that is directly opposite from the one they intend?

16. What are the Warhol Time Capsules (TC’s)? How do the TC’s “augment the anxieties that attached to Warhol’s effects during Sotheby’s estate sale?


Time Capsules at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg

RQ: Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking my Library”

St. Jerome in his Study, Ashmolean


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Walter Benjamin’s, ” Unpacking my Library: A Talk about Book Collecting.” The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Why does he invite us to join him in such an intimate moment? OR, what makes the opening few lines so intimate?

What is a collection? What is collecting?

What are some characteristics of a collector?

What is the most important fate of a copy of a book according to a collector?

“How do books cross the threshold of a collection and become the property of a collector” (61).

What distinguishes the way a collector purchases his books from the ways in which students buy text books or people buy gifts for one another?

What role do catalogues play in the collector’s acquisition of books?

Where, according to genuine collectors, do books achieve “true freedom” (64)?

How does Benjamin, and how do other collectors, account for texts (pamphlets, periodicals, family album, etc), which do not fit neatly into their libraries?

What is the soundest way of acquiring a collection?

What does Benjamin mean when he says, “Only in extinction is the collector comprehended” (67)?

In the conclusion, as he is nearly finished unpacking all his books, Benjamin explains the mysterious relationship to ownership that he alludes to in the opening pages by explaining that “ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have with objects” (67)? Why does he think that this is so?

Who is the “he” of the final sentence: “So I have erected one of his dwellings, with books as the build stones, before you, and now he is going to disappear inside, as it only fitting” (67)?