What does it mean to “worldmake”? How do our visions of different and imaginary worlds challenge or reify our current one? How does the world we reside in shape what worlds we think we can imagine? When can worldmaking be a form of resistance? This course focuses on literature of the early modern period (roughly defined as 1500–1800) and how narratives of nation building, race, and colonial logic affect experiences and understandings of desire. The early modern period was marked by colonial violence, imperialism, and “discovery.” These realities were seeped in an interest in desire (whether through labeling of sodomy in the Americas, metaphors of conquered land as women’s bodies, or the mass sexual violence inflicted by colonizers). Through studying how race and sexuality interact in English early modern literature and culture we will consider how texts can both “nationbuild”–supporting coherent ideas of Englishness often predicated on whiteness– but also how and when texts challenge or undermine English identity to reveal or build a different community or world.
The course will cover drama, poetry, and prose writing by canonical figures such as Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson and by more recently recovered writers such as Mary Sidney, Elizabeth Cary, Mary Wroth, and Hester Pulter. We plan to make all course readings available online. Assignments will consist of discussion forums and a series of short essays building to a final paper or project.
This course will be co-taught by Bernadette Andrea and Anita Raychawdhuri.