English 246 - Fall, 2015

17th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Dolan, Frances
CRN: 52587
Time: W 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Genre, Interdiscipline, Method


    How to read early modern prose—and why: invention, method, and form in the seventeenth century

    Various changes that defined sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England—the expansion of literacy and proliferation of cheap print, the rise of experimental science, religious and political controversy, and various sites and occasions of innovation and discovery—brought new urgency to writing in familiar prose forms (such as the letter or the recipe compilation) and spurred the invention of new forms. In turn, writers and readers reflected on the particular opportunities various prose genres opened up as well as the particular demands they placed on their producers and consumers. As a consequence, this period is a particularly rich one for thinking about how and why we read prose. Thus, while our reading list will help those preparing for preliminary exams in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it will also be of use to those interested in thinking about their own methods of reading and of recruiting prose texts as forms of evidence. Placing prose at the center of our inquiry, we will challenge the assumption that prose is always the context or background for the unequivocally literary. After all, what is literature? Do letters, recipes, sermons, and pamphlets count? If so, by what standard? What does it mean to read a text as evidence? Evidence of what? Our object of study will also enable us to think about some innovative projects in the digital humanities that make a broad range of prose texts more readily available.


    Students will do some short assignments, building toward a final paper. We will focus on group discussion of shared reading.

    Most of our texts will be available inexpensively in our anthology and through e-book or online editions. I will assign Wendy Wall's new book, Recipes for Thought, as a case study. I will place several copies on reserve.


    Jessica Malay, The Case of Mistress Mary Hampson
    Hermione Eyre, Viper Wine
    Alan Rudrum, et al, Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Prose