Literatures in English 1600-1800

2:30p-3:45p MW (30) 3 cr.


This version of E302 will use the course's chronological period and trans-Atlantic scope to examine the completion of the changeover from scribal or manuscript to print culture. We shall focus upon the various texts to be read as test cases in the study of distribution or publishing history and shall examine how the texts were presented to their original audiences and subsequently underwent change up to and including appearance in tomes like the Norton Anthology (Volume One of which shall be the basic text of the course). Thus we shall study Donne as a coterie or manuscript and then a print poet; Jonson as a figure who used print to advertise his own achievements; Herbert as a private manuscript poet made into a public apologist for High Anglicanism; Milton as a poet on the make in 1645 and then one made by the magnificent 1688 Folio edition of Paradise Lost; Pope as an independent professional poet; Johnson as a figure deeply immersed in the marketplace. For America, we shall examine the Declaration of Independence and how it was distributed, Paine's Common Sense, and then the reaction against the assumptions of those two works in Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland.

Students will be expected to read and understand a considerable amount of poetry and prose that is not actually explicated in class; rather, class discussion will be devoted to how the works we are reading originally appeared, whom they were directed to, and how they were likely to have been perceived in their own time. The course may well not be quite as "literary" as many students might wish, and if you have an objection to the study of history (admittedly, that is hard to believe), this is not the section of E302 for you. Several of our sessions will be held in the Lilly Library, where we shall examine and work from the original 17th- and 18th-century texts.

The hour and final exams will consist of passages for identification and explication from the reading, just to ensure that students are keeping up on that reading. The two 4-page essays may well satisfy that function as well. Students themselves will make presentations to the class as a whole at our sessions at the Lilly.