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At the same time as the individual human being in possession of a distinctive personality was taking on enormous importance in politics, philosophy, literature, and the visual arts, early modern Europeans were encountering unprecedented levels of cultural diversity. In this interdisciplinary course, we will consider these two developments both separately and together. As Renaissance humanists were acquiring a sophisticated understanding of the distance between the present and various European pasts (the recent medieval past and the remote history of antiquity), they were also coming into contact with non-European cultures in Africa, the Americas, and Asia via trade and economic development, imperial expansion, and religious conversion. Always at stake in these encounters was the question of who counted as an individual; the self was not considered to be intrinsic to human nature but rather the product of historical and cultural developments. Themes will include religious pluralism, the sacred and the secular, vernacularity, exploration and empire, the relationship between mind and body, slavery, trade, wealth, gender, self-fashioning, and style. We will consider such English writers as the Pearl poet, More, Marlowe, Spenser, Shakespeare, Browne, and Milton; such continental intellectuals as Descartes, Erasmus, Las Casas, and Castiglione; and such continental artists as Michelangelo, Velázquez, Bruegel, and Rembrandt.
Format: seminar; This course will be conducted synchronously online.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Five four-page papers, in-class presentation, thoughtful participation in discussions
A 100-level ENGL course, a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam, or permission of the instructor
First- and second-year students, and English majors who have yet to take a Gateway course
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
The course asks students to write five four-page papers and offers exposure to a range of humanistic modes, from close reading to visual analysis to the exposition of philosophical claims. One paper will involve independent research. The instructor will provide frequent and extensive written feedback on student work. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
This course examines the role of historical and cultural difference within and beyond Europe at the very beginning of globalization. Students will become acquainted with the origins of colonialism and the global traffic in slaves, as well as with the complex role of writers and intellectuals in questioning, defending, and imagining these practices. We will consider the epistemological challenges of accessing the testimony of subordinated persons.
ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses
ENGL Literary Histories A