English | Literatures in English, 1600-1800
E302 | 0256 | Paul Gutjahr

1:10P-2:25P D (30) 3 CR

Whereas Darwinism took the world by storm at the end of the
nineteenth century as a way to interpret the workings of the world,
an earlier—and equally pervasive—attempt at such an all-inclusive
interpretation was the Great Chain of Being.  The Great Chain of
Being argued that the world was ordered in a strictly hierarchical
fashion: God stood at the top of all things, while such things as
plant life were placed at the bottom.  This course will examine
texts that participated in a dialogue with the idea of the Great
Chain of Being by exploring writers who, to varying degrees, either
accepted or fought against this notion of cosmic ordering.  We will
begin with Milton’s famous poem on God’s relationship to His
creation and end with various notions of the common man which
circulated around the time of the American Revolution.  Along with
frequent reading quizzes, there will be both long and short papers.
The readings will be intense and diverse.  Be prepared to work hard
if you sign up for this class.

Texts may include:  Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s Henry V,
Behn’s Oroonoko, Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire, Franklin’s Autobiography; Brown’s Wieland,
Chesterfield’s Letters to My Son, Paine’s Common Sense, and a course
reading packet.