English | Literatures in English 1600-1800
E302 | 4834 | Janet Sorensen
E302 4834 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH 1600-1800
9:30a-10:45a TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.
TOPIC: “Literatures and Languages of Contact”
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 this concept
applies to the literatures of the period is in terms of their
representations of trans-Atlantic travel and 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.
The term “contact,” however, originated in the study of linguistics.
We shall also use the concept, then, to think about the related
shifts in the English language in this period--including literary
languages. 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 also look
at the “rise of standard English” in this period and test whether
the notion of a “contact language” might be a helpful way for
thinking about the negotiations authors make as they selected among
different registers of English and dialects to construct a text.
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. We shall focus on the significant changes
in the relationships between men and women and between aristocratic
and “middle” classes and consider the changing nature of
the “contact zone” between these constituencies.
The aim of your attentive reading will be lively class discussion
and clear, articulate written analyses. Two 5-page papers, a mid-
term, and a final are also required.