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17th Century Poetry: The Neo-Pastoral
The pastoral form is a famous paradox: it evokes an idyllic landscape of simple shepherds' lives in order to idealize the messy intrigue of sophisticated political life. Renaissance pastoral, for example, was a vehicle for poets to propel political careers and, simultaneously, to imagine new political possibilities. Writers such as Sidney, Spenser, Milton, and Marvell developed a “neo-pastoral” poetics that deployed—and deformed—ancient pastoral tropes to increasingly diverse social and political purpose.

This course will introduce you to the work of important Renaissance writers; in the process, we will think about the 16th- and 17th-century neo-pastoral as a poetics of exile, escape, and resistance. We will examine the neo-pastoral as a troubled zone between the active life and contemplative life, where the poet speaks from the outside looking in, from the country to the city. We will also interrogate how the pastoral is projected onto America, the New World.

The course will revolve around students' thoughtful engagement with the questions raised by the neo-pastoral mode: classroom participation and blog responses will be mandatory, along with three medium-length papers.


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