01 MW4 CAC 17179 RUFO MU-115
01-Utopian Literature of the British Renaissance
Utopia, meaning "no place," locates the space between what should be and what is, invites comparisons of what has been and what might be. Renaissance utopias, descendents of Classical Greek and Roman works of political philosophy and pastoral poetry (by Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, and Ovid), predicted the rise the novel in Britain and paved the way for the emergence of science fiction in the modern era. Part social critique, part travelogue, and part daydream, utopian literature--with its emphasis upon discovery and New World encounters--often meditates upon Human Nature and its domination by custom and convention, the law, and ideology. This course proposes to identify the formal qualities and thematic strands of a literary genre that is equally inviting of pessimistic and optimistic approaches to such problems. What is valuable about writing, reading, and thinking about the possibility of a better world? To answer this and related questions, we'll read British authors from Thomas More (1515) to Francis Bacon (1627), as well as works by Sidney, Marlowe, and Shakespeare. No prior knowledge is required to take the course, but an interest in political philosophy, intellectual history, or literary theory and cultural criticism is recommended. Class will be run as a seminar, meaning that participation in classroom discussion will be mandatory. Graded work will include multiple quizzes, biweekly informal response papers, two exams, and a final essay.