English 242 - Spring, 2015

16th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Ferguson, Margaret
CRN: 52859
Time: M 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Other National, Method, Theory


    Utopias, Memory Sites, and Travel Stories in Early Modern English and French Cultures

    This seminar explores a set of early modern texts that represent utopias (“no” or “good” places), "other worlds" (heterotopias), and journeys across time and space within or beyond the territories claimed by French and English monarchs during the first major phase of Europe's colonizing enterprise in what was known (to Europeans) as a "new world". Originally written in Latin, French, or English—sometimes with reference to Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian models--the set of materials we'll study includes maps and illustrations of printed texts. All readings will be available in English; we will, however, pay attention to questions of translation across languages and media in the light of both modern and early modern theories of translation as a spatial metaphor for "metaphor"; and as a site of cultural contest.

    We will read M.M. Bakhtin on the concept of the "chronotope"; Jacques Derrida and Samir Amin on the emergence of Eurocentrism; Pierre Nora on the notion of "sites of memory" ("lieux de mémoire")'Fredric Jameson on "utopia"; the critique of Jameson’s account of utopia and his theory of a historical progression of “modes of production” by Peter Kulchyski, a leading theorist of aboriginal American cultures in the postmodern (but in his view not postcolonial) world; Mary Louise Pratt on "contact zones" and "autoethnography." These key modern texts, read with selected works by other modern commentators on co-mingling of theological, aesthetic, scientific, and ethnographic discourses in the multilingual literature on the European "encounter" with (and eventual conquest of) New World peoples and territories, will serve as a hermeneutic lens through which we will interpret early modern texts –and vice versa. This course aims to provide students with points of entry into research projects that could contribute to one or more fields of current theoretical debate, among them memory studies; translation theory and practice; indigenous studies in its "transnational" turn; and the historical study of travel writing as a genre that emerged in connection with early modern discourses of news, advertising of colonial lands, and theologically charged debates about the structure of the universe.

    The seminar welcomes students from the graduate programs in French and Comparative Literature as well as English.

    Primary texts in paperback forms will be available at the UC Davis Book Store; in addition, some required and recommended readings will be available online and through our course's Smart Site. Texts ordered at the Book Store are visible below; other texts (on SS) will include selections from Behn's translation of Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle's _Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes_; Mary Wroth's _Urania_; André Thévet's _Cosmographie_; Francis Bacon's "Of Travel" and "Of Plantations"; Michel de Montaigne's "Of Cannibals" and "Of the Custom of Wearing Clothes."


    Your grade will be based on your participation in the seminar discussions; your contribution to a collaborative pedagogical project; the preparation of an annotated bibliography with a statement about the goals and methods of your research project; a final essay that takes the form either of a conference paper or of an article-length manuscript.


    Three Early Modern Utopias, More, Bacon, Neville, ed. Susan More, Bacon, Neville] (ed. S. Bruce, Oxford World Classics
    The Heptameron, Marguerite de Navarre trans. Chilton, Penguin
    The Tempest, William Shakespeare, ed. Hulme, WW. Norton
    Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais, trans. Chilton, Penguin
    The Unfortunate Traveller & Other Works, Thomas Nashe, ed Steane, Penguin
    The Blazing World & Other Works, Margaret Cavendish
    Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works, Aphra Behn, ed. Todd, Penguin
    Wonder and Science, Mary Baine Campbell