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Nature, History, and Natural History in Early Modern England

ENGL 736.401
instructor(s):
T 9-12:00

This course will consider some of the conflicting discourses of nature and natural history circulating in England from approximately 1550 to 1700. The premise of our reading will be that natural discourse is always social discourse, and natural history is human history. Among the topics and texts to be covered include: the ecologue and the pastoral (Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar and Shakespeare's As You Like It) and the georgic; the nature of the New World (Harriot, Raleigh, and Shakespeare's The Tempest); chorography (poems and prose describing local English landscapes; garden poems (Marvell and Jonson), garden manuals, and garden design; and "scientific" works on nature, including "secrets" books, Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica, and Bacon's Advancement of Learning. We will also consult secondary works by Raymond Williams, Keith Thomas, and William Eamon, among others. Everyone in the course will undertake an independent research project to be presented as a conference paper in a "mini-conference" at the course's end and as a formal paper (20-25 pages). Additional bibliographic exercises will be assigned in the course of the semester.