Why were Renaissance readers so intrigued by the travel narratives, printed images, pamphlets, poems and plays that described the New World? In whose interests were such texts and images produced? After a first look at Shakespeare's Tempest, we will read accounts of Atlantic voyages by Walter Raleigh and Thomas Harriot, Jean de Léry in Brazil and Bartolomé de Las Casas in the Caribbean, and English writers promoting or criticizing the colonization of the Americas. We will end with Aphra Behn's strange novel about Suriname, Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave (1688). Paying particular attention to images that interpreted the character of indigenous peoples through their dress or "undress," we'll make use of the excellent collections of illustrated books and maps here at Penn and in other Philadelphia libraries.
Assignments: close reading of 16th and 17th-century prose and poetry as we go along; a short paper analyzing a literary passage, visual image, or pair of them; an in-progress presentation of the topic you're researching in Van Pelt's Special Collections or another rare books collection; a final paper expanding on your research project and relating it to other texts and images we've studied during the semester.
Ann Jones (Visiting Professor, Smith College)