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Reading, Writing, and Printing in England and America: 1600-2007

ENGL 736.401
crosslisted as: COML736
M 9-12


This course will focus upon the material culture of reading, writing, and
printing from 1600 to the present, although with a particular emphasis on
1600-1800. We will explore the theoretical implications of authorship,
anonymity, imitation, plagiarism and the central role that recycling (of type,
images, and texts) played in the making and remaking of books in early modern
England and America. The course will also be an introduction to the
extraordinary collections at the Library Company, the Free Library, and the
Rosenbach Library, as well as at Penn, and will give students a chance to find
the archives that will be relevant for whatever research they will undertake
for their degrees.
   The main books for the course will be the Bible, Hamlet, Shakespeare’s
Sonnets, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, the New England Primer, Hariot’s Briefe and
True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, Richardson’s Pamela, and
Franklin's Autobiography. I have chosen these texts both for their diversity of
genres and for their long afterlives. Hamlet, for instance, was far more
influential (for actors, poets, novelists, philosophers, politicians, literary
theorists among others) in 2000 than in 1600. And Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which
had little influence in the early seventeenth century, played a central role in
the trial of Oscar Wilde and in definitions of sexuality in the 1890s.