E302 2081 SORENSEN
Literatures in English 1600-1800

9:30a-10:45a TR (30) 3 cr.



In this survey of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts in English we shall use the concept of “contact” between separate groups as a frame for our studies. The most obvious way in which this concept applies to the literatures of the period is in terms of their representations of new contacts with non- European peoples such as Africans and natives of the Americas. We’ll examine texts produced in those colonial encounters, from records of voyages of discovery to novels about interactions between historically and geographically separated groups, including journals of Captain Cooke, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and former slave Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography. The term “contact,” however, originated in the study of linguistics. We shall also use the concept, then, to think about shifts in the English language--including literary languages-- throughout these two centuries.

As one of its foremost theorists Mary Louise Pratt has noted, a contact language is an improvised language that develops among speakers of different native languages. Yet we shall test whether the notion of a “contact language” might be a helpful way for thinking about the negotiations authors made as they selected and chose among different registers of English to construct a text. We’ll also investigate the “rise of standard English” in this period--in dictionaries, periodicals, and novels--and the relationship of standard English to the varieties of English spoken and written in Britain at this time. Thomas Sprat, Samuel Johnson, Addison and Steele, and Scots poets Allan Ramsay, James MacPherson, and Robert Burns will figure here.

Finally, we’ll make use of the notion of “contact” on a more general level, to think about the ways in which separate groups use writing to devise ongoing relationships with each other, often under conditions of inequality. Here we’ll think about three distinct sites of contact: men and women (including Robert Herrick, Margaret Fell Fox, John Donne, Katherine Philips, Mary Astell, Alexander Pope, Samuel Richardson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, et al), aristocrats and “commoners,” (Samuel Pepys, Earl of Rochester, Delariviere Manley, Stephen Duck, Mary Jones, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray, William Blake, Thomas Paine), and supporters of the Stewart monarchs and, after the civil war and subsequent “bloodless” revolution, supporters of their replacements (looking at excerpts from Civil War newsbooks, Charles I, Andrew Marvell, John Dryden, John Milton, and John Locke).

Course requirements will include participation in this discussion- oriented course, response papers, two long papers, a midterm and final examination and one group presentation.