Summer 2018 Undergraduate English Courses

358:320 "Art gave Lifeless Life": Art and Life in Early Modern Literature

E6  6/25-8/3 TTH 6:00-9:40 PM  CAC   04327  GILDEA  FH-B1

“Art gave Lifeless Life”: Art and Life in Early Modern Literature

Consider these moments from the texts we will read: A statue of a woman comes to life, leaving its viewers in awe. A woman, after having been raped, scratches at a painting in order to make it feel pain. A sonnet suggests that life can be preserved in the form of a poem. An author believes she can live in her plays and will die when they are destroyed.

What would it mean to say that art gives things that are lifeless life? Taking the trope of the “living” art form as our starting point, this course will explore the early modern preoccupation with intense experiences of the imagination. Reading a variety of genres, we will consider how characters and authorial figures interact with fictions. How does poetry affect the minds and bodies of readers, and the world around them? To what extent are spectators’ emotional responses to plays and paintings real? How can spectators interact with art in a way that makes it come to life, so that it adds to the vitality of their own lives? How does a focus on these imaginative acts challenge the idea that art forms are representations or reflections of the world? By considering these questions, one goal of the course is to come up with an early modern theory of fiction.      

We will read texts by Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Mary Wroth, John Milton, and Margaret Cavendish. We will also read essays by contemporary theorists on fiction, mimesis, and emotion. Requirements include regular attendance, class participation, several informal writing assignments, and one mid-length paper.