English 246 - Winter, 2019

17th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Werth, Tiffany
CRN: 54937
Time: M 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Genre, Interdiscipline, Method


    Literature and Alchemy

    The seventeenth-century was an exciting time to live. One dynasty died out (the Tudors) and another was beheaded (the Stuart); religious reform sparked civil war that pitted fathers against daughters, neighbors against neighbors; scientific speculation refigured nature; the very fabric of knowledge and being—matter and its elements—was split open to new interpretation. In short, all was, as Donne famously remarks, called “into doubt.” This course aims to study the creative energies such turmoil unleashed. Our controlling metaphor will be the form of knowledge known as alchemy, a discipline which aims to transform not only base metals into gold but to figure the spiritual and psychological transformation of the individual. Its principal esoteric and religious symbolism enriches culturally important topics as diverse as early modern eroticism, natural philosophy, early science, spiritual elevation, technological experimentation, and, of course, the poetic imagination.

    We will study selected works of seventeenth-century poetry and/or prose, with a particular attention to close reading (literary devices and themes) and range from the metaphysical poems of John Donne to the ‘atomic’ poems of Margaret Cavendish.


    5% Course engagement and participation

    10% 2-page Critical Lit. Review (double spaced) posted for class

    10% 2-page Early European Books database assignment (double spaced) posted for class

    5% One paragraph essay proposal and annotated bibliography of secondary sources (6-8 sources with one to two paragraphs of critical annotation)

    70% Round table length final research paper (10 -12 pp) or digital project poster with equivalent pages / text and rationale.


    Seventeenth-Century British Poetry 1603-1660, Ed. Rumrich and Chaplin