English 226a
M. Booth
TTH 11:30 –1
HU III


English Literature in the Age of Discovery


This course observes Elizabethan minds at work on themselves, their past, and the world they were beginning to encounter. Our texts will be: 1) a pocket anthology of Elizabethan literature; 2) an anthology of early modern travel writings; 3) a collection of historical documents ranging from Rafael Holinshed’s Chronicles to Queen Elizabeth’s “Edict Arranging for the Expulsion from England of Negroes and Blackamoors.” Amidst such materials as seem particularly illuminating about Elizabethan culture, we will pay close attention to the predominating literary forms and styles of the period, from the sonnet to the revenge tragedy, the satirical pamphlet to the metrical psalm.

A major subtopic of the course will be the early interaction between Europeans and indigenous people in the New World, and how the encounter was represented at the time and has been remembered since. A liberal-arts class in the 21st century is liable to confront such materials with various and perhaps conflicting motives: On the one hand, we may desire to understand ourselves and our collective origins as an English-speaking and Spanish-speaking society on American soil, and may wish imaginatively to inhabit the viewpoints of people on each side of it, to see the Europeans as the Native Americans saw them and vice versa; on the other hand, particularly in light of the last generation of scholarship and historical reappraisal, we may perceive a moral imperative to question some of the affective or aesthetic investments that inform our habits of thought about this period. We will consider a series of recurrent questions: how pilgrimage, commerce and exploration have shaded into crusade or conquest; how classical and medieval inheritances have shaped European understandings of the New World; how Spanish and English colonialisms resembled one another and differed.


Course Objectives:

This course will help students understand…
* the political context and conceptual backgrounds of Elizabethan writing.
* consequences of English expansion for the peoples encountered or colonized.
* ways that the age of discovery changed English society, language and thought.
* the referential and expressive range of 16th and 17th century English.


Required texts:

The Elizabethan Reader
Hiram Haydn, ed. (New York: Viking Press)

Amazons, Savages and Machiavels: Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550-1630
Andrew Hadfield ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: An Introduction With Documents, 2nd ed.
Russ McDonald (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001)

Texts on reserve:
Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984)

Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1990)

Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman eds., “The Tempest” and its Travels
(London: Reaktion, 2000)

Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999)

Ivo Kamps. ed., Materialist Shakespeare: A History
(London: Verso, 1995)

Bruce R. Smith, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999)

Lisa Jardine, Reading Shakespeare Historically
(London: Routledge 1996)

Edwin A. Abbott, A Shakespearean Grammar.
Rpt. (New York: Haskell House, 1966)