ENGL728 - Seminar in Seventeenth-Century Literature

“Soule is Forme”: religion and race and representation in Early Modern England. This class will investigate whether the ideological positions of Protestant and Catholic can be understood to function in early modern England as material categories—and, if so, what this tells us about the emergent discourse of race. The failure of both ecclesiastic and academic authority to explain the cooperative relationship of the material and immaterial in intellectual cognition in the early part of the 16th century had ceded the question to a more humanist approach. As Garrett Sullivan puts it, from about 1530 onward, in both “theology and natural philosophy, the relationship between the tripartite soul and the immortal soul was both widely assumed and, in its details, continually renegotiated.” While theological commitments were labile and complex, there was nonetheless a prevailing sense in the early modern period that belief posited bodily consequences. How does this philosophical framework organize the apprehension of the religious, medical, humoral, discourses that gird early conceptions of race? Starting with the work of Mary Floyd-Wilson, Jean Feerick, and David Nirenberg this class will go on to explore these questions through short poems such as Christopher Marlowe's “Hero and Leander” and Shakespeare's “Venus and Adonis” plays such as Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, performances such as Jonson’s Masque of Blackness, and tragic-comic forms such as John Fletcher’s The Island Princess (which mingles residual and emergent meanings of the term “race”).