English | Literatures in English 1600-1800
E302 | 2201 | Mackay
E302 2201 MACKAY
Literatures in English, 1600-1800
10:10a-11:00a MWF (30) 3 CR.
The organizing principle for this survey will be to question whether
seeing really is believing, a maxim we will trouble by looking at
texts that call attention to hallucination, verisimilitude and the
dangers that attend unconstrained, rapturous or biased sight. This
query should help us to illuminate profound cultural concerns about
the political, scientific, religious, aesthetic and imperial tumult
that takes place during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as
we contemplate how proof, beauty, faith (that is, what is believed
without visual evidence) and the definition of what is obvious
shifts, sometimes radically, over this time. We will also consider
the relation of the visual to the reader in a variety of print
genres, including devotional poetry, tragedy, the scientific
treatise, the political polemic, the martyrdom narrative, the gothic
novel, children's literature, and "newes."
The literary brackets for the course will be Shakespeare’s Hamlet
(1600) and Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797), and between these two
works we will explore a variety of writings and writers, including
works by Addison and Steele, Milton, Crashaw, Bacon, Burke and
Massinger. We will contextualize our readings with some examination
of the period’s visual culture and wider (non-literary) print
culture, particularly in terms of the work of William Hogarth.
The course will require close readings of primary materials and of
some representative criticism. Each member of the class will
complete at least two in-class presentations, one on a play and
another on a critical essay, both of which involve a written
component. The course will culminate in a research essay which will
be undertaken in a series of steps over the course of the semester.