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Fall 2018

RSCP 72100 - Introduction to Renaissance Studies:  Comparative Lyric Poetry, GC: T, 2:00-4:00pm., Rm TBA, 3/4 credits, Prof. Steve Monte, Cross listed with CL 80900 and ENG 71000

This course will explore the explosion of poetic productivity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as efforts to justify an essential social and cultural activity. In his Apology for Poetry, Philip Sidney says that the poet “lifted up with the vigor of his own invention” can make a world “better than nature bringeth forth.” Edmund Spenser creates an idealized alternative world in The Faerie Queene and John Milton aspires in Paradise Lost to achieve “things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme” in Paradise Lost and to comprehend God’s “eternal providence.” Readings include the poetry of Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, William Shakespeare, Mary Wroth, John Donne, and George Herbert, and special attention will be paid to the poetry and poetics of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Milton. To highlight issues of translation, nationality, and intertextual appropriation, some consideration will be given to Italian and French poets such as Petrarch, Pierre Ronsard, Joachim Du Bellay, and Louise Labé—including Du Bellay’s La Défense et illustration de la language française. While no knowledge of Italian or French is required, students who work in those languages are welcome in the seminar. 
Other topics considered will include: 1) A comparison of early modern theories and defenses of poetry – Sidney’s Apology, Puttenham’s Art of English Poetry, Daniel’s Musophilus -- with contemporary critical and theoretical works by John Hollander, Mark Edmundson, Marjorie Perloff, Rita Felski, and others 2) Ambivalent attitudes throughout the Renaissance and Reformation towards imagination and fantasy. 3) The establishment of the poet as an exalted cultural authority and the emergence of the author as a brand and cultural agent.


HIST 72500 - Fashion and Experience in Early Modern Europe, GC: Mondays, 2:00PM-4:00PM., Rm TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Amanda Wunder [63371]

This seminar will examine the art and history of fashion in early modern Europe from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Precious few secular garments made before the eighteenth century survive, so we will be trying out a variety of sources and methods to gain a sense of the “period eye” to see and understand what clothing meant from various perspectives in the early modern period.  Seeking to understand the processes behind change and innovation in fashion, we will be looking at developments in textiles and clothing as they took place within broader historical contexts (global, political, economic, religious, and social). Students will acquire a firm grounding in the historiography of the field, which has been especially rich and dynamic in recent years. In class sessions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other collections we will learn from original objects such as: textiles, vestments, and accessories; printed costume books and tailoring manuals; portraiture; arms and armor. Other classes will include practical experience working with a variety of primary sources and methods, including historic reconstruction. 
This interdisciplinary course is not restricted to students in Art History and History; students from other departments and programs are very welcome. Please email Prof. Wunder ( if you need permission to enroll. Auditors will be accepted by permission of instructor only if space allows.
* Important note: About half of the class sessions will meet away from the Graduate Center at museums in Manhattan (mostly the Metropolitan Museum of Art); please allow for travel time in your schedule. Also note that the Registrar has scheduled one class on a Thursday (Sept. 6).
Active participation and regular contributions to classroom discussions and museum visits; oral presentation on at least one week’s readings. Written assignments: Short paper based on a primary source or museum object due mid-semester; final research paper and brief oral presentation at the end of the term.
Preliminary Reading:
These and other course materials will be available on DropBox; email Prof. Wunder for the link after enrolling in the course.
Timothy McCall, “Materials for Renaissance Fashion,” Renaissance Quarterly 70, no. 4 (2017): 1449-64. 
Sarah-Grace Heller, “The Birth of Fashion,” chapter 2 in Fashion in Medieval France (2007); reprinted in The Fashion History Reader, ed. Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil (2010).
ART 70010 - Exoticisms, GC: Thursdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, Rm TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Judy Sund ( [63372]

This course surveys the processes by which non-European peoples and production have been reimagined and repurposed in a variety of modern Western media (from painting and architecture to advertising, performance and body modification) – in the service of projects ranging from the propagandistic and commercial to the escapist and erotic. Although exoticist practices are age-old, this course focuses on those that burgeoned in the Age of Discovery and flourished in tandem with 18th- and 19th-century colonialism and imperialism, and surging tourism. Theories of the exotic – as outlined by Victor Segalen, James Clifford, Tzvetan Todorov, Roger Célestin, Deborah Root, Peter Mason, et al. – and considerations of parallel developments in literature inform discussions of chinoiserie and japonisme; Orientalism; portrayals of the Noble Savage; and Western constructions of race and its hierarchies.
CL 80900 - Clues, Evidence and Conjectural Paradigm: A Comparative Investigation of Early Modern Narratives, GC: Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 2-4 credits, Prof. Monica Calabritto
CL 80900 - The Art of Fiction in Cervantes. From the Exemplary Novels to Quijote, GC: Thursdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 2-4 credits, Prof. Lia Schwartz
ENGL 78100 – Renaissance Sex, GC: Tuesdays, 11:45am-1:45pm, 2/4 credits, Prof. Mario DiGangi and Prof. William Fisher [64633]

This seminar will explore the repertoire of scholarly methods that have been used for understanding sex and sexuality in early modern literature, with an eye to current debates and future directions in the field. We will consider how different theoretical and historical approaches have produced varying accounts of sex as an object of inquiry; we will engage various reading strategies for elucidating sexual meaning in literary and non-literary texts; and we will reflect critically on questions of evidence, language, genre, theatricality, and periodization.
The following kinds of questions will guide our discussions: What are the consequences of emphasizing historical alterity or historical continuity in the study of sex? Are concepts such as sexual identity, subjectivity, or community useful in analyzing early modern modes of eroticism? How was sex itself depicted? Which acts feature regularly in texts from the period, and which appear to have been unknown? How were sex acts and erotic discourses structured by social categories such as race, gender and class? How were phenomena like consent and sexual violence conceptualized? How might the field ultimately move beyond familiar sexual paradigms and taxonomies (i.e., homoeroticism/heteroeroticism) and access alternative forms of erotic knowledge, practice, and relationality in early modern culture? How do particular textual and performative elements (i.e., puns, soliloquies, gestures, costumes, voices, metatheatrical moments, offstage actions) convey or confound sexual meaning?
In addressing these questions, we will be examining a wide range of primary materials, from plays and poetry to court cases and pornography. First, we will be reading a number of canonical literary texts such as Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis and Othello, Marlowe’s Edward II, Barnfield’s The Affectionate Shepherd, Donne’s “Sappho to Philaenis” and the poems of Katherine Philips and Aphra Behn. In addition, we will be exploring “pornographic” texts like Rochester’s Sodom, The School of Venus, Nashe’s Choise of Valentinesand other poems featuring dildos like Seignor Dildo’s Adventures in Britain. Finally, we will study an array of non-literary texts including medical treatises (such as John Henry Meibom’s The Use of Flogging in Venereal Affairs and Giles Jacob’s Treatise of Hermaphrodites) and court cases (such as the infamous Castlehaven trial).
ENGL 82100 – Land, Liberty, and Slavery from Hobbes to Defoe, GC: Wednesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 2/4 credits, Prof. Feisal Mohamed [64642]

This course will consider together several phenomena often considered separately: the conversion of arable land to pasture, which imposed unprecedented hardships on tenant farmers in early modern England; the central place of property in seventeenth-century English formulations of political liberty; and the rising prevalence, and increasing racialization, of forced labor in the period. Taken together, these radically refigure the relationship between power, space, and subjectivity.
We will read the seminal works of political theory produced in England’s tumultuous seventeenth century, those of Hobbes, Harrington, Filmer, and Locke. These will be connected to larger debates in European political thought on dominium, a right of possession, and imperium, the power to command. We will also explore how transformations of labor and property necessarily exert influence in literature, not only at the level of content but also at that of genre and mode. Along the way, we will essay a detailed accounting of England’s efforts to expand its mercantilist activity to the West and East, goaded by rivalry with other European powers, especially Spain and the Netherlands. In exploring these questions, we will look at material arising from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as work in slavery studies and space studies. Assignments will be a seminar presentation and paper, to be developed into a research paper of 15 double-spaced pages.

Preliminary list of literary texts:

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America
Andrew Marvell, selected poems
James Harrington, Oceana
Sir William Davenant, The Siege of Rhodes
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko
Robert Filmer, Patriarcha
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
FREN 87200 – Entre Rire et Châtiment: La Formation de la Satire moderne à la Renaissance, GC: Thursdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 2/4 credits, Prof. Bernd Renner [63526]

La satire est une des formes d’expression littéraire les plus complexes. Elle se place à la fois dans un contexte strictement littéraire (p. ex. parodie de genres tels l’épopée où de conventions telles l’amour courtois) et dans un cadre politique, religieux ou social. Son objectif principal est d’habitude de nature morale : elle vise à guérir les maux de la société à travers une multitude d’approches critiques et esthétiques. La Renaissance offre un champ d’étude particulièrement fertile pour la satire. De nombreuses traditions satiriques différentes se mélangent à cette époque pour aboutir au concept moderne de la forme : le modèle classique de la satire en vers (Lucilius, Horace, Perse, Juvénal), L’épigramme (Martial), la variante ménippéenne (Lucien de Samosate), le drame satyrique grec et la variante populaire en vernaculaire (farce et sottie). Quasiment tous les auteurs, canoniques ou non, souscrivent à cette écriture militante riche et complexe qui combine de manière exemplaire un éventail représentatif d’aspects littéraires et extralittéraires. L’étude de la satire renaissante nous permettra donc de mieux comprendre l’évolution de la littérature française (et européenne) en vernaculaire dont les débuts étaient dominés par les soucis de l’imitatio et de l’anoblissement des lettres nationales.
Liste préliminaire des textes étudiés :
 La Farce de Maître Pathelin.
--François Rabelais, Pantagruel. Paris : Seuil, 1996.
--Clément Marot, « L’Enfer ».
--Bonaventure Des Périers, Le Cymbalum mundi.
--Barthélemy Aneau, Lyon marchant. Satire françoyse.
--Le Paradoxe contre les Lettres.
--Joachim Du Bellay, Les Regrets Divers Jeux rustiques.
--Pierre de Ronsard, Discours des Misères de ce Temps.
--Agrippa d’Aubigné, Les Tragiques.
--La Satyre Menippee.
HIST 76900- Latin American and Caribbean Slave Societies in Comparative Perspective with Slavery in the United States, GC: Thursdays, 4:15-6:15 p.m, 3 credits, Prof. Laird Bergad
This course will examine some of the main themes found in the vast historiography on Latin American and Caribbean slavery in comparative perspective with slave systems in the United States.  Comparative patterns of race relations will also be considered. Readings have been selected from some, not all, of the principal scholars who have worked on the theme of slavery; and they are reflective of topics that have been the subject of recent research and debate. The most exhaustive bibliographical guide to works on slavery is Joseph C. Miller, Slavery and Slaving in World History:  A Bibliography, 1900 - 1991 (Millwood, New York:  Kraus International Publications, 1993). This has been updated as Slavery and Slaving in World History: A Bibliography - Vol 2, 1992-96 (Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1999). More importantly a searchable web site has been developed by Miller and other collaborators at the following internet address: Also see Seymour Drescher and Stanley L. Engerman, eds. A Historical Guide to World Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
There are many synthetic surveys on slavery and the slave trade to Latin America and the Caribbean that you may use for general reference. It is recommended that you read, or become familiar with, Herbert S. Klein and Ben Vinson III, African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean  (second edition) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) and Klein’s survey of the slave trade, Herbert S. Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade  (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Robin Blackburn’s book is also recommended: The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation, and Human Rights (London: Verso, 2011), as well as Seymour Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
An expansive survey which transcends slavery, and which focuses only upon the 19th and 20th centuries is George Reid Andrews, Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Latin American and Caribbean slavery is best understood in comparative perspective, which is one of the objectives of this course.  The literature on U.S. slavery is enormous.  There are several survey histories that I recommend which summarize much research. These are: Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone:  The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America(Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1998); Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 2003); Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003); Robert William Fogel, Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1989); and David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World(New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
HIST 76000- Colonial Latin America, GC: Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30pm, 3 credits, Prof. Herman Bennett
In recent years, some Latin Americanists have questioned the hermeneutics defining the field of colonial Latin American History.  The colonial designation some feel posits a disjuncture (or beginning) when it could be argued that continuity characterized the historical narrative.  While students of ideas, political practice, and the cultural domain have been the strongest proponents of this intervention, scholars of indigenous cultures—especially the Nahua Studies groups—share similar sentiments despite differences in scope and method.  Consequently, scholars have been utilizing terms like ‘early’ and ‘early modern’ Latin America to distinguish their work from a colonial project and its association with the rupture that Spanish hegemony allegedly implied.  Concurrently, a self-conscious collection of scholars identified as the Latin American subaltern studies group have called into question the elitist hegemony shaping the structure and content of Latin American history.  Scholars of the Latin American subaltern along with those who take issue with the occidental reasoning informing how Latin America history is currently conceived are introducing new terminology (subaltern, postcolonial, Afro-Latin American) that allegedly re-frames the Latin American past and present.  In our semester’s work, we shall explore the meanings and implications, if any, that this and other discursive shifts have had on Latin American historiography.  Even as this seminar attends to shifts in meaning and context, we will engage the substance of the existing historiography.
This course is specifically designed as an introduction to the early modern/colonial field and is designed to prepare History graduate students for the major field exam in Latin American history.  Courses, despite their prominence in structuring graduate programs, merely introduce students to some of the overarching historiographic and conceptual themes defining a field.  To this end, a course identifies some areas of inquiry but in doing so obscures others.  At the core of this seminar are three thematic foci:
Firstly) Utilizing the concepts of movement, power, and difference one focus is to examine the formation of a Renaissance Atlantic in the period of 1400 to 1600 in which Iberian History and early Latin America played a central yet still overlooked role.  Framed as a question, I am asking: in what ways does recent scholarship on medieval and early modern Iberia call for a reconsideration of colonial Latin America history?  Ostensibly a historiographical question, it has epistemic implications.  In view that recent scholarship on the Iberian past has been transformative, what implications might this have on our thinking, approach, and writing of early Latin American history?  Successive turns, most notably the imperial and Atlantic ones, complicate matters by underscoring how nineteenth-century nationalist fabrications conjured up a mythic Iberia with profound consequences for the foundational representations of colonial Latin America history.
Secondly) through the prism of political economy this course will also bring into relief the genealogy of economy and government in early modern Iberia and the early modern Atlantic. In the wake of successive intellectual turns (the linguistic, feminist, cultural, the post-colonial, and archival turn), our engagement with the cultural domain has become finely honed but at the expense of our understanding of the social.  This dynamic, in many respects, reflects the working of related but distinct renderings of the political.  Arguably, for cultural historians narrating the political entails discursive formations and an awareness of how political rationalities are grafted on to cultural codes and grammars.  While we now understand how the political related to the social draws on similar discursive formations, it also embodies a materiality—signified in the relationship of the political to the economy as in ‘political economy’—that configures it as distinct.   To this end, the course will introduce students to a range of authors and texts which will develop our analytical skills as they relate to the realm of political economy.  To be clear, this aspect of the course is not intended to mean the study of economics or political science for historians.  While abstractions of the “economy” or “politics” figure prominently in the semester’s work, the course focuses on the contextualized meanings that these terms and related concepts implied for various authors and historical actors through time and space.  At the same time, it should be understood that this course does not offer a formalized discussion of ‘political economy’ framed through a historiography self-consciously stylized as such.  Instead by bringing a distinct selection of authors and texts into conversation seminar participants will hopefully refine their acumen for thinking and writing about the temporal and spatial specificity of early modern ‘political economy.’
Thirdly) this course seeks to situate the study of the African diaspora in the early modern period.  Accomplishing this task is no simple feat since the study of the black experiences in the New World and the African diaspora in general emerged as subjects of scholarly inquiry burdened by the weight of European colonial expansion and racial dominance.  In our efforts to route the study of the African diaspora through another scholarly abstraction—the early modern period—we will highlight the modern genealogies of many of our analytical concepts.  The intent here is not simply to offer a relentless critique but to foster ever more awareness for historical specificity.  By employing the heuristic concept of diaspora—and specifically the African diaspora—another thematic focus resides in the analytical work generated by studying cultures of movement.  As scholars, we might begin by asking whether diaspora complicates our understanding of disciplinary formations—including the normative assumptions that inform the study of society and culture.  How does diaspora, for instance, enhance our perspectives on imperial and colonial formations and the ways in which they have been historically represented?  In utilizing the prism of diaspora we confront the politics of representation through which scholars render meaning out of the past and present.  For this reason, diaspora like other categories of analysis engages the vexed terrain of representation whereby scholars frame the subject of their inquiries.
In reading and thinking about syllabi, you need to think about courses stated objectives, the instructor’s intent in relationship to those objectives, and the work a particular syllabus performs in relationship to previous and present intellectual formations.   Though designed for students in the Latin American field, the thematic and theoretical concerns informing the assigned readings and the course itself make this seminar accessible and of interest to early modern Europeanists, colonial Americanists, students of race, anthropology and cultural formations along with those interested in the current state of early modern cultural theories.

Spring 2018                                                             

RSCP 82100 – Research Techniques in Renaissance Studies, GC: R, 2:00pm - 4:00pm, room 3305, 4 credits, Prof. Professor Clare Carroll [38086]. Crosslisted with CL 80900, 2 or 4 credits
The course is designed to help students work on their own research—on the dissertation, the orals, or on a research paper in Renaissance or Early Modern Studies, broadly defined as 1350-1700. Students are not required to be members of the Renaissance Certificate Program to take the class.

We will study how the material conditions of texts as well as those of archives, book sellers, and libraries influence the transmission and interpretation of early modern culture. Readings will include articles on such topics as archives, authorship, literacy, the material make-up of books and manuscripts, the printing press, and reading practices . Students will receive instruction in topics specifically related to research in the early modern period: codicology, paleography, textual editing and analytical bibliography. We will study the history of reading—marginalia, descriptions of reading, and of reading practices. The major assignment for the course is an annotated bibliography related to each student’s own particular research interests. Other assignments include exercises in paleography, analytical bibliography, and an oral report related to one of the readings. We will visit the Manuscript and Rare Book Collections at the Morgan Library.  

Reading list (texts from which weekly readings will be selected):

Ann Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age
Roger Chartier, Forms and Meanings: Texts, Performances, and Audiences from Codex to Computer
Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Study
Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe
Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book
Arlette Farge, Allure of the Archives
Imtiaz Habib, Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677: Imprints of the Invisible
Heidi B. Hackel and Catherine E. Kelly, eds., Reading Women: Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World
Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance
Armando Petrucci, Writers and Readers in Medieval Italy
Brian Richardson, Manuscript Culture in Renaissance Italy
Bill Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England
Articles by Robert Darnton, Anthony Grafton, Lisa Jardine, and Peter Stallybrass.

HIST 72800 - Slavery and the Disciplines, GC:  R, 6:30-8:30 pm, room 3308, 3 credits, Prof. Herman Bennett [CRN 38117]
At its core, this course takes up concerns animated by both the persistent and emergent focus on slavery in the disciplines.  It asks how and why distinct disciplines are suddenly approaching the study of slavery?  Obviously this dynamic portends to far more than an engagement with the study of slavery solely as an economic system or as a technique of power.  Slavery, as a result, is no longer restricted to the domain of historians and the study of the enslaved past.  For this reason, the course“Slavery & the Disciplines” offers a wide-ranging examination of slavery’s presence and impact on disciplinary formation.  In discerning the work of slavery in various disciplines, notably Anthropology, English, Philosophy, Political Theory, Religion, and Sociology, this course explores how scholars of distinction disciplinary formations employ the study of slavery to press on the extant cultural logic but also framings of the past, present and future. 
Robert Reid-Pharr has recently written that “even as we joyously celebrate the victories of our enslaved ancestors, even as we take satisfied stock of how far we have come, we must studiously avoid the triumphalist narratives that are the hallmarks of humanist discourse.” Reid-Pharr’s trenchant critique is not alone.  A variety of intellectuals and scholars have leveled a similar broadside against the epistemology configuring Western thinking and its enduring legacy.  Rather than reduce this to a generational critique framed as an inquiry into the history of the present, we might be better served asking how and why this engagement with slavery and its legacy arises at this precise moment among a range of scholars in various disciplines?  What, in other words, does this engagement and critique say about our historical moment, previous representation of the slave past, and slavery’s sublimated presence in contemporary life?  What might be conveyed by invocation of slavery’s enduring afterlife?  What are the implications for the University and its constituent elements—disciplines?
Over the course of the semester, the seminar participants will deliberate over slavery and freedom as these subjects have been broached and now are treated by distinct disciplines.
Syllabus here.
ART 84000 - Mellon Seminar: The Connoisseur of Mughal India, GC:  W, 11:45-1:45 pm, room 3421, 3 credits, Prof. Molly Aitken- Zaidi ( [CRN 38162]
To be co-taught with Navina Haidar, Curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
This course draws on the extraordinary collection of Mughal and Deccan painting and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the expertise do MET curator, Navina Haidar, to introduce students to what it meant- socially, politically, and personally- to be a connoisseur of the fine arts in 16th -19th - century India. Connoisseurship is our theme, and the course will afford student the rare opportunity to hone skills in close looking and distinction that are now rarely taught. Students will be introduced to some of the greatest masters of Indian art first and. They will also read primary and secondary sources on European and Mughal aesthetics and on European and Mughal conceptions of connoisseurship to think comparatively and critically about the history of close looking and discernment in art.
C L 88100 - Dante’s Web: Charting Connections between the Commedia and his other Works, GC: W, 2:00pm-4:00pm, room 3310A, 2/4 credits, Prof. Paola Ureni, [CRN 38100]
This course will highlight the connections between Dante’s works, identifying and following thematic, philosophical, and lexical threads that link the Commedia, Convivio, Monarchia, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Vita Nuova, and Rime. Even though the consideration of the temporal sequence of Dante’s writings will be important, our readings will be organized according to thematic – rather than chronological – criteria. Scholars have often discussed the relations and reciprocal influences in Dante’s oeuvre, particularly, for instance, in the Commedia and the Convivio. On the basis of the philosophical and political dimension, studies and critical editions of the Monarchia have considered its relationship to the Convivio. More recently, for example, the political dimension has been highlighted as relevant to the linguistic theory of the De Vulgari Eloquentia. Besides investigating the connections discussed by Dante criticism, we will explore and identify references to structures of thought shared by the different aspects of medieval intellectual discussions, and mirroring Dante’s intellectual iter. This will allow for a study of the poet’s syncretic consideration of the political, philosophical, musical, and scientific discourses, as well as of the relationship between classical authors and material, and contemporary theological tenets.
ENG 82100 – Sovereignty, GC: W, 11:45am-1:45pm, room 3307, 2/4 credits, Prof. Feisal Mohamed, [CRN 38208]
“The theory of sovereignty,” Foucault declares in Society Must be Defended, was “the great instrument of the political and theoretical struggles that took place around systems of power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.” If one were to revise this observation, it would be only to add that the theory of sovereignty continues to be at the center of struggles around systems of power. In recent months we have certainly been reminded in thunder of the political charge of sovereignty in our own moment: with Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, with the rise of strongman politics in countries where democracy had always been precarious, such as the United States, Russia, Turkey, and India, to name but a few examples. Depersonalized authority, rule of law, proceduralism and overlapping consensus all seem especially now to be self-deluding liberal fantasies.
This course will thus focus on English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with an eye to later theoretical approaches to the questions of sovereignty. In exploring early modern material, we will pay attention to constitutional debates on the role of the sovereign, but also to the role of England’s rising imperial ambitions and to the complex political self-positioning of the period’s women writers. We will take into account recent scholarship on political theology, and examine how writers of this tumultuous period reinscribe the political imaginary implicit in various literary modes, epic, tragedy, satire, and pastoral. Especially important to the theoretical content of the course will be the cluster of theorists witnessing up close the collapse of liberal order in the Weimar Republic: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss. We will also read theorists of our own moment of anxiety on sovereignty, such as Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, and Wendy Brown. Seminar participants will be expected to make a conference-style presentation leading to a research paper of 14-16 pages.
Preliminary list of literary texts:
William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, The Tempest, Macbeth
Ben Jonson, Sejanus
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book 1; View of the Present State of Ireland
John Donne, Satyres
Aemilia Lanyer, The Description of Cooke-Ham
Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World
John Milton, A Masque, Lycidas, Paradise Lost (selections), Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes
Lucy Hutchinson, translation of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (selections); Order and Disorder, cantos 1-5
Andrew Marvell, Upon Appleton House, An Horation Ode, The First Anniversary, the Advice-to-a-Painter Poems
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave
ENGL 82100 - Early Modern Trans History and Theory, GC: T, 11:45am-1:45pm, room 4419, 2/4 credits, Prof. Will Fisher, [38201]
This class will offer a broad survey of possible sites of inquiry for transgender (trans) scholarship on early modern English texts, and explore the intersections between the fields of early modern studies and trans studies. It will address questions like: How might gender-variant characters and historical figures speak to contemporary trans inquiries? What are the major premodern trans texts? How do recent developments in trans studies impact the way we read early modern texts, and vice versa? What are the methodological issues involved in understanding gender variability before the introduction of terms like trans, genderqueer, nonbinary, genderfluid, pangender, agender, and cisgender? How does early modern thinking about sex/gender and the body compare with contemporary thinking about these topics as articulated in trans studies?
Literary texts will include canonical works like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl, John Lyly’s Gallathea (along with other early modern iterations of the Iphis and Ianthe story), and Ben Jonson’s Epicoene, as well as lesser-known works like Francis Beaumont’s Salmacis and Hermaphroditus and seventeenth-century broadside ballads about gender-variant individuals.
In addition, we will be examining a range of non-literary sources, including the court cases of individuals like Eleanor/John Rykener and the “female husbands” of the late-seventeenth century like Amy Howard/James Howard. We will also study early modern medical writing about gender and the body, including the accounts of spontaneous gender transformation from the period and the discussions of intersexed individuals, in order to consider whether – or how – this material might help contest assumptions about the historical dominance of binary models of gender identity.
Finally, trans theorists like Susan Stryker, Jack Halberstam, Joanne Meyerowitz, Cheryl Chase, and Dean Spade will be read alongside the work of early modern scholars like Simone Chess, Colby Gordon, M.W. Bychowski, and Leah DeVun.
SPAN 82200 – The Invention of Love in Early Modern Spanish Poetry, R, 4:15pm-6:15pm, room 4433, 3 credits, Prof. Lia Schwartz, [CRN 38053]
The development of Humanism led to the rediscovery of Italian poetry in the Renaissance, which became a main model for different conceptions of love at the time, and of Greek and Roman poetry. The example of Petrarch’s Canzoniere and his Italian followers in the sixteenth-century, Bembo among others, combined with the enthusiastic reception of Neo-Platonism after the translations of Plato and the philosophical writings of Marsilio Ficino, promoted a vision of love that was going to be recreated by Spanish Renaissance and Baroque poets for two long centuries. The purpose of this course will be to examine the relations between literary and philosophical theories and their recontextualization in poetic texts, focusing on the constitution of the voices of the lover and on the portraits of the beloved, as they appear in individual poems, and in the collections built as “cancioneros” after the example of Petrarch. Garcilaso de la Vega’s and Fernando de Herrera’s works, historical precedents of Góngora’s and Quevedo’s poetry, will be studied in conjunction with readings of Neo-Platonic theory, Marsilio Ficino’s treatises and those composed by his most important mediator in Spain, León Hebreo in the famous translation of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, with references to other important texts in the transmission of Neo-Platonic ideas.


Fall 2017

RSCP 72100 - Introduction to Renaissance Studies:  Neoplatonism across Time and Faith, GC: W, 2:00-4:00pm., Rm 3309, 3/4 credits, Prof. Clare Carroll and Feisal Mohamed, Cross listed with CL 80900 and ENG 71000

Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical limgua franca of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of falsafa. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.



FRENCH 70500 - Writing the Self: From Augustine to Selfies, GC: T, 4:15-6:15pm, Rm 3310A, 2/4 credits, Prof. Domna C. Stanton

How is the self written, visualized, constructed? What different forms and shapes do such texts take over time, in different genres? What purposes do they serve, for the several selves inscribed in a text and for others (including the self) who will read it.This course will begin by examining several theoretical texts on writing the self (Lejeune, Smith, Derrida, Glissant, Stanton), then trace self-writing from the Middle Ages (Augustine, Kempe, Pisan) through the early-modern periods, focusing on both the global (travel narratives on conquest --Columbus, La Casas, Equiano), and on various forms (letter and diary, for instance) of gendered interiority (Cavendish, Gentileschi, Sévigné, Westover). Signal texts on post-Enlightenment confession and memoir (Rousseau, Sand) will be followed in the second half of the seminar by a more thematic approach to issues of modernity, including  slavery and liberation always deferred (Jacobs, Douglass, Wright, Coates); modernism and the limits of experimentation (Woolf, Nin, Kafka, Cahun); autofiction  (Colette, Joyce, Stein); dislocated, traumatized selves in wars and holocausts (de Beauvoir, Sartre, Anne Frank, Levi, Henson [comfort women]); testimonio, the indigenous (Hurston, Levi Strauss, Menchu) and human rights narratives (Eggers); and French  post-structuralism and the psychoanalytic (Barthes, Kristeva, Cardinal, Louise Bourgeois, Lacan). Our last two seminars will involve a discussion of inscriptions of sexual and medical bodies, featuring birthing, AIDS, cancer and transgender selves(Arenas, Guibert, Bornstein, Leonard, N.K. Miller); we will end with the topics of digital/virtual self-writing and the selfie (Smith, Giroux, Nemer and Freeman). Throughout, we will consider possible meanings of confessing/revealing/ concealing and constructing/deconstructing the selves; and finally, we will ask whether, at bottom, all writing is self-writing.

Work for the course: Whether the course is taken for 2, 3 or 4 credits, all students will be responsible for doing the readings closely and for engaging consistently in class discussion. They will each present a reading of a primary text from the syllabus to the class. All students will take the final exam.

a.  Students who take the course for 4 credits will also write a 20-25-p. paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. In preparation, they will  first turn in a title and a paragraph summary of the paper; then a thesis statement and a 4-p. outline; finally a 4 p. introduction and the bibliography (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
b.  Students who take the course for 3 credits, will do all of the above but instead of a 20-25 p. paper, they will do a 10-13 p. paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor.
c.  Students who take the course for 2 credits will submit their reading of a primary text in writing (5-7 pp.)

Please contact Domna Stanton with any questions ( 

The syllabus and the course materials to be downloaded will be posted on Blackboard by August 15, 2017.