Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in History of the Book: Word, Phrase, Sentence: Reading, Writing, and Printing in Early Modern Europe and America

ENGL 234.401
crosslisted as: HIST 411, COML 411
Monday 2:00-5:00
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major

This course will examines the writing, printing, dissemination, interpretation, and censorship of specific words, phrases, mottos, sentences, commonplaces, and proverbs in early modern England, France, Italy, Spain and America. We will begin by analyzing the significance of specific words, including “word” itself, with specific attention to the Bible and Shakespeare. We will also examine the extraordinary dissemination of innovative words in Early Modern Europe and America, including “cannibal” and “fetish.” Among the texts that we will read will be works by Las Casas, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Donne. All the texts will be available in English and we will pay particular attention to the massive range of translations from the period.

We will draw wherever possible on the exceptional collections at Penn and in Philadelphia, including several dramatic examples of censored books.