The University Record, January 28, 2002

Ralph Williams teaches Shakespeare as first U-M course

By Nancy Ross-Flanigan

If improving your mind topped your New Year’s resolution list, but you can’t find time for classes, there’s another option to consider. Now, busy U-M alumni and others can turn to, an online source of authenticated knowledge from the University and other institutions.

U-M’s first online Fathom course, “The Shakespeare You Never Knew: The First History Plays,” began Jan. 22. Taught by English Prof. Ralph Williams, the e-course examines three Henry VI plays and Richard III. With Williams as their guide, learners will explore themes that run through the four plays. The self-paced course, which can be completed in four weeks or less, draws on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s March 2001 residency at U-M, as well as artifacts from the University Library’s Shakespeare Collection. The fee for the non-credit course is $45.

Later this year, a second e-course, “Daily Life in the Eastern Roman Empire (100 BCE - 100 CE): Trade, Travel, and Transformation,” will be taught by Susan Alcock, associate professor of classical studies; David Potter, professor of classical studies; Sharon Herbert, director of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and chair of classical studies; and Terry Wilfong, assistant professor of Near Eastern studies and assistant curator of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The course will provide learners with a sense of daily life in the ancient Roman Empire, focusing on Rome, Italy; Karanis, Egypt; Ephesus, Turkey; and the Nemea Valley, Greece.

In addition to the formal courses, users who visit the U-M entry to the Fathom site ( will find interactive narratives by top faculty on fields ranging from architecture and business to physics and psychology.