English 246 - Fall, 2020

17th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Dolan, Frances
CRN: 53282
Time: M 12:10-3:00
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Interdiscipline, Method


    In this seminar, we will consider dramatic changes to British patterns of consumption in the seventeenth century, and how these changes both resulted from and motivated the expansion of the British empire and the exploitation of persons and resources in Colonial America and Barbados (among other locales). The reading load will be heavy but widely varied. We will read autobiographies, travel narratives, recipes, poems, and plays. While we will read some familiar texts (Shakespeare's OTHELLO and THE TEMPEST, Behn's OROONOKO), we will also read texts that have been very little discussed and whose very genre is hard to determine. As a consequence, what genre is and and how it works will be a central question for us. We will organize our reading around particular comestibles, including garden plants and flowers, cosmetics and medicines, tea, coffee, tobacco, sugar, and chocolate, attending to where and how they were produced and at what human and environmental cost, as well as how they entered and transformed British life. Presentations, readings, and writing assignments will focus on developing participants' research skills, analytical ability, and creativity.

    I strongly recommend the Kupperman edition of Richard Ligon's HISTORY OF BARBADOS. But other than that, I am open to whatever versions of assigned texts you can find and will try to assemble most of the readings for you online. We will also read a recent historical novel, Sara Collins's THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON. While most of our readings should be available through our Canvas site, I strongly recommend getting physical copies of our core texts--that is, those listed below.


    Student preparation and participation will be crucial to the seminar's success (30% of the grade total). Students will regularly kick off discussion and give presentations. There will also be some short research exercises and a final research paper.

    Advanced undergraduates who are interested in this class should contact Professor Dolan.


    Othello (Folger), Shakespeare, ed. Mowat
    Oroonoko (Norton), Aphra Behn
    Tempest (Folger), William Shakespeare
    The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins
    True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, Richard Ligon--Kupperman edition.