ENGL 81500: Science, Sympathy, and the Stage in Early Modern England

Tanya Pollard – Fall 2014

GC 3305

Office: GC 4408

Thursday 4:15-6:15

Phone: 718-951-5000 x6216

E-mail: Tpollard@brooklyn.cuny.edu

Website: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/tpollard

Hours: Thurs 3:15-4:15 & by appt.

This course will explore early modern scientific models of bodies’ relationships with their environments, with attention to theories about the sympathies sparked by correlations between human, animal, and inanimate bodies, and the potent consequences of manipulating these sympathies. Critical approaches will include history of the body, environmental and ecocritical readings, animal studies, and approaches to the supernatural.







Introduction and overview




Thomas Elyot, The Castel of Helth (1539); John Davies, Microcosmos (1605); Helkiah Crooke, Microcosmographia (1615) (excerpts); Mary Floyd-Wilson, “Introduction: Secret Sympathies,” in Occult Knowledge, Science and Gender on the Shakespearean Stage (Cambridge, 2013); Gail Kern Paster, “Introduction,” in Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (Chicago, 2004).




Marlowe, Tamburlaine (1587); Matthew Greenfield, “Christopher Marlowe’s Wound Knowledge,” PMLA, 119:2 (2004); Timothy Francisco, “Marlowe’s War-Horses,” in Violent Masculinities: Male Aggression in Early Modern Texts and Culture, ed. Jennifer Feather, Catherine E. Thomas (Palgrave, 2013).




Marlowe, Faustus (1592); Kristen Poole, “The Devil's in the Archive: Doctor Faustus and Ovidian Physics,” Renaissance Drama 35 (2006); Andrew Sofer, “How to Do Things with Demons: Conjuring Performatives in Doctor Faustus, Theatre Journal 61:1 (2009).




No class




Arden of Faversham (1592); Mary Floyd-Wilson, “Arden of Faversham: Tragic Action at a Distance,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy, ed. Emma Smith and Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr. (Cambridge, 2010); Alan Dessen, “Mist and Fog on the Elizabethan and Jacobean Stage,” in Speaking Pictures: The Visual/Verbal Nexus of Dramatic Performance (Fairleigh Dickinson, 2010).




Shakespeare, Macbeth (ca 1606); Steve Mentz, “Shakespeare’s Beach House, or The Green and the Blue in Macbeth,” Shakespeare Studies 39 (2011); Vin Nardizzi, “Shakespeare’s Globe and England’s Woods,” Shakespeare Studies 39 (2011).




Beaumont, Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607), Wendy Wall, “Tending to Bodies and Boys: Queer Physic in The Knight of the Burning Pestle,” in Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge, 2002); Hristomir A. Stanev, “The City Out of Breath: Jacobean City Comedy and the Odors of Restraint,” Postmedieval 3:4 (2012).




Jonson, The Alchemist (1610); John Shanahan, “Ben Jonson’s Alchemist and Early Modern Laboratory Space,” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 8:1 (2008); Andrew Moran, “The Apotropaic and Sanctified Marriage of Sulfur and Mercury in The Alchemist,” Ben Jonson Journal 20:1 (2013).




Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale (1610-11); Maurice Hunt, “‘Bearing Hence: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, SEL 44:2 (2004); Amy Tigner, “The Winter’s Tale: Gardens and the Marvels of Transformation,” English Literary Renaissance (2006).




Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (1612-13); Lynn Maxwell, “Wax Magic and The Duchess of Malfi,” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 14:3 (2014); Marion Wells, “Full of Rapture: Maternal Vocality and Melancholy in Webster's Duchess of Malfi,” in Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Changing Concepts of Physiology from Antiquity, ed. Manfred Horstmanshoff, Helen King, and Claus Zittel (Brill, 2012).




Middleton, The Witch (1609-16); Linda Phyllis Austern, “‘Art to Enchant’: Musical Magic and Its Practitioners in English Renaissance Drama,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 115:2 (1990); Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, “Introduction: The Witch," Three Jacobean Witchcraft Plays (1986).




Middleton, The Changeling (1622); Patricia Cahill, “The Play of Skin in The Changeling,” Postmedieval 3: 4 (2012); Mary Floyd-Wilson, “Tragic Antipathies in The Changeling,” Occult Knowledge (Cambridge, 2013).




No class




Presentations of final essay research




Final essay drafts due in class; peer-revision workshop




Revised versions of final essays due



Course Learning Goals:

      The goals of this course are to learn to read and analyze early modern plays in the context of the period’s assumptions about bodies’ relationships to their environments.  By the end of the course, students will be expected to:

Demonstrate close reading skills and familiarity with early modern language

Demonstrate familiarity with early modern ideas about bodies and environments

Identify and address key issues in current critical conversations about early drama

Formulate thoughtful questions and clear arguments, in writing and discussion, based on textual evidence



     Students will be expected to contribute actively to discussions; make two brief presentations on the readings; and write three brief analytical essays (no longer than two pages each) on close readings of textual passages, in conversation with the critical readings and/or the Oxford English Dictionary.  At the end of the semester you will give a presentation of your final research project, write a complete draft of the essay (12-15 pages), exchange and critique drafts, and revise the essay for final



     Secondary readings will be available in a Dropbox folder.  You are welcome to use any editions of the plays that you would like. For non-Shakespearean plays, the New Mermaids series (Bloomsbury) and Revels Plays (Manchester) are very good, and Arden has an excellent new edition of Duchess of Malfi; you can also get responsible, less expensive editions from Oxford Worlds Classics.  For Shakespeare, Signet Editions are inexpensive, well annotated and supplied with useful critical essays; the Arden editions are more expensive, but especially rich in scholarship. The Graduate Center does not have a designated bookstore; they recommend the Amazon link on the GC website, which earns points for the GC’s library, but you are welcome to find books any way you like.

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