Law, Religion, and Literature in Renaissance England
This seminar will examine the ways in which literary works participate in legal and constitutional debate in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. We will take as rough endpoints two decades during which questions about the legal foundations of sovereignty, religion, and private property took on particular urgency: the 1530s, when Henry VIII declared himself head of the English church, and the 1650s, which saw a series of experiments in non-monarchal government. Reading literary works alongside statutes, court cases, parliamentary proceedings, and legal theory written over these hundred or so years, we will think about relationships between literary and legal rhetoric and form as they imagine the meanings and uses of trial, testimony, consent, liberty, property, and contract. A series of short writing and research assignments will culminate in a 12+-page research paper.