English | Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature
L320 | 13214 | Richard Nash

Richard Nash

11:15a-12:30p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC: “Early Modern AgriCultural Studies”

Animating recent work in Literature and Science is an increasing
attention to matters sometimes loosely categorized as AgriCultural
Studies. This course will focus on the early modern period (not, in
this articulation, the Renaissance but rather that period from the
Interregnum to about the American Revolution) as a way to focus our
engagement with the critical problems that such a critical approach
brings to the foreground.

A couple of years ago, I was bemused to read (in The Washington
Post) about the environmental threat posed to drinking water by deer
scat.  This is the sort of topsy-turvy eco-threat that we have grown
increasingly familiar with over the past quarter century: wild
animals and plants are threatening our ecosystem! One hardly knows
whether to laugh, be outraged or both. As this course will have a
lot to do with satire, we will grow accustomed to combining those
two responses; and as we will do so, we will be reminded to take
them seriously. Just as we should the subject in today’s paper. For
the interdependence of deer and human populations are well-
established realities that put pressure on our easy distinctions
between a Culture in which we live and a Nature in which they live.

One feature of our critical position with respect to the Early
Modern period will be committing to a “non-modern” perspective that
seeks to engage with, while simultaneously resisting those modern
constructions that sought to purify Nature and Culture, by
disavowing NatureCulture hybridities. Following the path of such
theorist of science studies as Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, we
will return to the terrain of Early Modern literature with an eye
toward re-engaging critically with the material demands of an
intensely agrarian culture during a period frequently identified as
experiencing an “agricultural revolution.”
Doing so (I hope) will remind us that Cultural Studies is not
restricted either to late-twentieth century capitalism, nor to urban
environments. It will prompt us (I hope) to engage with historical
arguments that, in spite of the inroads made in recent decades as
English departments move beyond literary history, have for the most
part remained too “off-road” to encounter much vehicular traffic. It
will bring us to consider seriously a set of questions that
anticipate “ecocriticism” before “ecology” was a word. And, I
certainly hope, it will bring us to see with fresh eyes familiar
literary forms like Georgic, locodescriptive poetry and fable. While
our emphasis will be on poetry, we will read in a variety of genres.

This will be a reading intensive course, with a significant
historical dimension.  Students will read seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century British literature, both in current anthologies
and editions, and in original published form, both via online
resources like ECCO and by working in the Lilly library with our
rare book collection.  Throughout the course, we will consider
current critical and theoretical texts alongside our primary
materials, as we seek to reframe familiar topoi about landscape and
georgic in revisionist terms that ask us to rethink these categories
in light of current concerns about the history of ecology and
AgriCulture.  You will be asked to write two short papers (4-6 pp)
and one longer (9-15pp) paper.  Each short paper will be 20% of your
grade, as will class participation; your long paper will be 40% of
your grade.