ENG 304: Course description

Kristen Abbott Bennett * Spring 2014 * Stonehill College

ENG 304: Subversion and Scandal in Early Modern English Print Culture

In conjunction with close study of the texts on the syllabus, this class will critically debate the respective merits of digital v. in situ archival research. Throughout the semester, students will perform and share document analyses that interrogate the differences and similarities of studying digital and material texts.  We will use selected online resources and also visit the Rare Books and Manuscripts Room at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.  Students will additionally explore the range of texts and materials available on order through Libraries Worldwide. As a class, we will create a public access portal that includes “how to” research guides that can serve as a resource for future classes.

Crown censorship and dire consequences forced many poets, pamphleteers, and playwrights to disguise risqué content amidst dense intertextual conversations. This class examines such exchanges in the context of the history of the book and early modern print culture, conversational exchange and collaboration, history and politics, and problems surrounding authority among the works of Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, George Chapman, William Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, and their classical sources.

Unit 1: Dido in Conversation

This unit studies the history of the book and the practices of early modern conversational exchange in the context of Christopher Marlowe’s (and, less certainly, Thomas Nashe’s) play Dido, Queen of Carthage and a selection of its classical sources. In addition to short reflection essays, students will also learn how to analyze documents and will post a document study and a short reflection essay on our WordPress site: https://earlymoderneng304.wordpress.com/about/.Students will be quizzed on their learning at the end of the unit. [Note: We have chosen to keep these initial assignments private.]

Unit 2: Heroes and Leanders

This unit examines the conversational exchanges between selected turn of the seventeenth-century adaptations of “Hero and Leander.” In the course of studying Marlowe’s, Chapman’s, Petowe’s, and Nashe’s direct adaptations of the poem, as well as Shakespeare’s nods throughout Much Ado About Nothing, students will reflect on reading practices at the turn of the seventeenth century as well as our own. Students will also visit the Boston Public Library in small groups. Each group will generate a 1:1 document analysis and individual reflection essays about their experiences conducting both digital and in situ research. During this unit, groups will be assigned their “how to” topic for the website. “How to” topics include: digital archival research, in situ archival research, and inter-library archival research. At the unit’s close, students will write a short, argumentative essay demonstrating their close reading skills and comprehension of the learning.

Unit 3: Seditious Supplications

This final unit carefully examines the strains of political satire that emerge from taking a conversational approach to reading Marlowe’s, Nashe’s, and Middleton’s “supplications to the devil” in the context of classical Juvenalian satire. We will study how these authors deploy multiple rhetorical techniques – sometimes all at once – to both disguise and reveal social and political protest. Students will have options to revisit the BPL as they complete their “How to” research guide projects. Students will write a short, yet formal, research paper demonstrating their comprehension of the learning at the end of this unit.

For more information, contact kbennett@stonehill.edu or kristen.abbottbennett@gmail.com

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