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Literary London: Renaissance to Restoration

ENGL 238.950
MW 11-1:00
Penn-in-London Program: June 24 to July 28, 2006

Fulfills Distribution Requirement III: Arts & Letters and Sector IV of the Core Requirement and/or Seminar Requirement of the English Major. In the course of the seventeenth-century, London witnessed the execution of the king, an experiment in Republican government, the Restoration of the monarch, and the great fire of 1667. This course will tell the story of this fascinating city through literary, dramatic, and historical materials. Using London as the center of our readings, we will consider how the character of the city was reflected in and prompted literary production. We will begin the course with a contrast: literary production of the court, seen through the eyes of poems like Ben Jonson’s To Pensurst; and literary productions of the city, epitomized by emerging writers like Isabella Whitney who would come to dominate the literary, dramatic, and publishing scene. As the “middling” classes of London come to figure more centrally within the cityscape, city comedies marking the economic and social practices of Londoners—such as Bartholomew Faire and Chaste Maid in Cheapside¬—offer us glimpses of a vibrant city. And courtly masques performed for the King offered views of Londoners from within the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall. As the country and its capital move to war, London becomes the site of political petitioning, of the threats of civil war, and in 1649, the site of Charles I’s execution. We will consider the historical and literary texts that chronicle this disruptive time within London, framed by the King’s execution and his son’s re-entry into London as he reassumes the throne. Restoration London will be the focus of the final third of the course as we consider the intersections between the city and the literary production of writers such as John Dryden, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Samuel Pepys, and Daniel Defoe as they work to reconstruct a vibrant city through and within their writings. Excursions will include a country walk to Pensurst Castle, a trip to Hampton Court, and tours of London.