Recent scholarship has suggested that the Renaissance (which used to be depicted as the “Age of Discovery”) is actually the time when all the existing continents began to be joined together—economically and culturally. But colonization and new forms of slavery also date back to this period, so it is also a period when the world became divided in a new way. In this class you will learn about this great transformation the world and how it reshaped English culture. We will explore varied materials such as travel tales and reports (including Columbus’s letter announcing his “discovery”, Las Casas’s A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and contemporary accounts of Eastern harems), maps (Including the first world atlas by Abraham Ortelius), costume books, medical treatises, and paintings alongside key literary texts of the period (including Thomas More’s Utopia, plays by Shakespeare and Marlowe, and poems by John Donne). We will consider the following questions: how did English writers depict this new world? How did their stories differ from the medieval stories of monsters and marvels? How did the stage in particular depict people from different parts of the world? In what way did travel and global contact change earlier views of marriage, sex, gender, power and race?
Requirements include regular attendance, short weekly posts (1-2 pages), and a final take-home exam.