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Early Modern Epochal Figures and Works

ENGL 538.401
instructor(s):
M 1-4

The seminar will begin by looking at how the nineteenth-century constructed the Renaissance as the beginning of the Modern epoch -- that is, as what we have since called the Early Modern. Selected works by Hegel, Marx, Michelet, and Burckhardt will give us a sense of how the period which imagined itself as the recovery of the past (Renaissance) became the period which marked the anticipation of the future (Early Modern). The core of the semester will concentrate on several figures and works who have since then been identified with the onset of the modern period: Luther (On Christian Liberty), Montaigne (Essays), Machiavelli (The Prince), Shakespeare (Hamlet and the Sonnets), Bacon (Advancement of Learning), Calderon and Descartes (Meditations). Our concern will be to locate in these figures the features that have since the nineteenth century been associated with the period: interiority, technology, secularization, real-politik, objectivity, and perhaps most importantly -- the new. The final weeks of the seminar will be devoted to asking whether this construal of the Early Modern can accommodate recent contributions to Early Modern and Renaissance studies, above all literary studies.