2:30p-3:45p MW (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.
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, Collier, 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.