2007-2008 Theme:
Science and Technology

The 2007-2008 EMC Theme, “Science & Technology,” will provide a forum to explore these two terms as interrelated and mutually constitutive fields of inquiry in the early modern period. We conceive of science and technology as a broad range of social and cultural practices, cultural and historical formations, and epistemological perspectives. Fields of study that might fall under such a broad definition of science and technology include: horticulture, botany, engineering, automata, stage machinery, navigation, cartography, anatomy, medicine, alchemy, the occult, taxonomy, archiving, printing, and information science. Across these and other fields, we want to ask questions such as: How and why were systems of knowledge created and proliferated? What particular scientific developments participated in the exploration of the body, the mind, time, and space? How were individuals, communities, and nations impacted by new systems of knowledge, particular objects or hardware, or advanced procedures to accomplish tasks?

Each year the Early Modern Center and its affiliates organize a number of exciting courses and events around the yearly theme. Several early modern graduate and undergraduate courses will be in dialogue with the year’s theme. The EMC will host a Winter conference on “Science & Technology, 1500-1800” as well a Spring undergraduate conference showcasing students’ work from participating courses throughout the year. Unlike in previous years, this year’s Fall Colloquium will be on a theme separate from the annual theme, and will instead commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade.

2007-2008 Events

Theme-Related Courses

Fall 2007

ENGL 197 | Upper-Division Seminar: Writing Nature in the Eighteenth Century (Undergraduate)

What do we mean by “nature”? Do natural entities have rights? Are there non-human forms of agency? Who might “speak for” (or represent) Nature, and how? What is “environmental literature,” and where did it come from? Questions like these – ethical, historical, literary, scientific, and political – emerged in the early modern period, when new ways of thinking about the natural world developed that still shape environmental debates today.

Starting with the story of the Golden Spruce, a 250-year-old genetically unique specimen destroyed in 1997 by an ex-logger fighting against clearcutting, we trace the modern conflict of preservation and productivity in 18th-c. novels, poetry, satire, and travel and scientific writing by Swift, Pope, Leapor, Collier, Goldsmith, Cowper, and Goethe, among others.

This course counts toward the English Department’s “Early Modern Studies” and “Literature and the Environment” emphases.

ENGL 197 | Upper-Division Seminar: Brave New Worlds: Utopianism in Early Modern England (Undergraduate)
In this course we will explore utopian thought in the imaginative writing of early modern England. After a brief survey of relevant classical and medieval texts at the beginning of the term, we will read More’s Utopia, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Neville’s Isle of Pines, and Cavendish’s The Blazing World. Our study of these texts will be driven by questions concerning the rise of science and the desire to master nature; the economics of labor; the rationalization of the state; and the impact of the discovery of the new world on the cultural imagination of Europe.

This course cannot be repeated and is limited to upper-division English majors only.

ENGL 236 | Studies in Literary Criticism and Theory: Editing the Archive, Archiving the Edition (Graduate)
Literary texts are increasingly sourced from and deposited within electronic archives. This course will survey the history of editing and archiving in the humanities, from its beginnings to our digital present. Whilst an ‘archival turn’ away from the printed critical edition towards the digital archive has been widely predicted and generally welcomed, the terms through which the archive might be critically addressed are as yet unclear. The course will ask how far book history and bibliography, editorial and archival theory and the emerging disciplines of textual studies and digital humanities might shape archival practices, and how they might be shaped by them in turn. We will explore fundamental archival and editorial practices such as collection, transcription, annotation and commentary through historical, methodological and theoretical readings, and through selected case studies.

Winter 2008

ENGL 10EM | Introduction to Literary Study: Early Modern (Undergraduate)

Acquaints students with purposes and tools of literary interpretation. Introduces techniques and vocabulary of analytic discussion and critical writing. Emphasis is on early modern studies. The class also introduces students to the Early Modern Center located within the English Department. Materials will focus on the EMC annual theme for 2007-2008, Science and Technology. Readings will include an assortment of poetry, nonfiction essays, short prose and two plays, Dr. Faustus and The Alchemist. Work for the course consists of two essays and a final exam, in addition to other in-class assignments.

Spring 2008

ENGL 149 | Media and Information Culture: Media History of the American Revolution (Undergraduate)

This course is developed out of three cardinal and interrelated assumptions:

1. History: The American Revolution is the formative historical episode of American history; it not only brings ‘invents’ America as an independent state; it also seeds our political culture with its most characteristic ideas, its dominant narrative (the struggle for freedom in popular cinema like Star Wars and The Matrix), as well as its specific scenarios for political action and social reform. More than a founding myth, the American Revolution haunts our political culture and periodically returns, for example in the struggle for Abolition (of Black slavery); Women’s Suffrage; Civil Rights; the Free Speech Movement; and even the Internet ‘Revolution’. Although our course will center on writing of the 18th century, we will occasionally cross cut between the first American Revolution and its periodic “returns.”

2. Action: To make revolution, the first men and women to call themselves Americans had recourse to a wide range of communications practices and media: speeches, letters, the newspaper article, pamphlets, the political petition, street demonstrations, songs, and, most consequentially of all, the collective public “declaration.” We will study this rich ecology of communication to take account of a) the media and communications infrastructure of colonial America: the Royal Post, the newspapers, and various voluntary associations (clubs, assemblies, town meetings); and b) some of the distinctive communication innovations of the revolution (Boston’s development of a network of towns and colonies; the organization of the Continental Congress; and, the performance of a collective public declaration {e.g. The Declaration of Independence in 1776}). Finally we will study how the communications protocols developed in the revolutionary period, which valued media that was distributed, open, public, and free, were incorporated into the official media policy of the American Republic.

3. Ideology: The core idea of the American Revolution is liberty. In the centuries since the American Revolution, liberty has been given numberless extensions and a daunting variety of roles. Liberty is often seen as the means, the end, and the chief virtue of American culture. It has been used to claim the natural rights of women and black slaves. But, more problematically, the claim to liberty has also been used to justify the conquest of the West and the invasion of other countries. Through a reading of some of the founding documents of this country, we will seek to analyze and specify this complex and multi-faceted concept. We will take account of its origins in the history and culture of England and seek to understand how “liberty” acquired new articulations in the struggle against British imperial rule.

In order to gain a useful preliminary understanding of the American Revolution, we will read a short but authoritative book, entitled The American Revolution, by Gordon Wood. To relate the American Revolution to its media history and ideology, we will read a broad spectrum of the literature of the American Revolution: Joseph Addison’s popular play about republican liberty, Cato {1704}; the influential articles written by the Pennsylvania lawyer John Dickinson to defend the colonists against new British laws, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania {1768-9}; the pamphlet published by the Boston Committee of Correspondence to network the towns to Massachusetts and mobilize them to resist British measures, The Votes and Proceedings of the Town of Boston {1772}; Thomas Jefferson’s Summary View {1774}; the most popular pamphlet of the revolutionary era, which convinced most of the need for American independence from Britain, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. By reading this ‘literature of liberty’ against the backdrop of the revolutionary events they reference and support, this course should provide a new context for reading American’s founding documents – The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the first acts establishing copyright and the post. Because of the persistence of the American Revolution in later epoch, we will be exploring modern media culture for analogs of 18th century American events. For example, we will discuss how the Vietnam War and the Iraq war have been justified through appeal to liberty and freedom.

Requirements: one short in class presentation; a quiz, a midterm, a paper (that links some aspect of the American Revolution to the present) and a final exam.

WARNING & TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: Although I find the writing of American’s revolutionary epoch to be political “literature” of the highest quality, it is not to everyone’s taste. While we will do the close readings of complex texts found in many of our English courses, we will also develop an historical and media studies approach to these texts that will be quite different than many English department courses.

Texts (key):

Course Reader:

Milton, John. Areopagitica, selections
Locke, John. 2nd Treatise, selections
Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennyslvania. [check on possible editions — perhaps I can Xerox from a 19th century edition in the public domain…or from newspaper editions]
Boston Committee of Correspondence, Votes and Proceedings
Jefferson, Thomas. Summary View
Yankee Doodle
and other ballads
Arendt, Hannah. Selections from On Revolution and “Labor, Work, Action”
Habermas, Jurgen. Encyclopedia article on Public Sphere

Wood, Gordon. The American Revolution
Addison, Joseph. Cato
Paine, Thomas. Common Sense
Declaration of Independence and Other Documents: from Patrick Henry to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address 

Applies to LCI Specialization.

ENGL 231 | Studies in Renaissance Literature: Technologies of Reading in Early Modern England (Graduate)
In this course we will explore technologies of reading in early modern England. In the first part of the course we will consider the materials of reading (scrolls, codices, script, print, type, glosses, indices) and ask how these materials might shape the ways readers attend to texts. We will then turn to historically specific methods of engaging with the written (humanist, Christian, literary) in order to better understand the strategies and purposes of early modern reading. We will not only discuss the work of scholars concerned with the history of the book and the history of reading (Chartier, Eisenstein, Grafton), but will also take up scholarship addressing the history of hermeneutics and exegesis (Cave, Derrida, Ricoeur). Early modern writers we will address will include Bacon, Erasmus, Luther, Marlowe, Petrarch, Shakespeare, and Spenser.

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