This course will examine the writing, printing, dissemination, interpretation, and censorship of specific words, phrases, mottos, sentences, commonplaces, and proverbs in early modern England, France, Italy, Spain and America. We will begin by analyzing the significance of specific words, including “word” itself, both in the Bible and Shakespeare. We will also examine the extraordinary dissemination of innovative words in Early Modern Europe and America, including “cannibal” and “america.” Among the texts that we will read will be works by Montaigne, Shakespeare, Donne, and Benjamin Franklin. All the texts will be available in English and we will pay particular attention to the massive range of translations from the period, many of them heavily illustrated. Whenever possible, we will draw on the exceptional collections at Penn and in Philadelphia, including several dramatic examples of censored book.
The course will be evaluated on class presentations, a range of exercises and short papers, and a final longer paper.