English 9155B

Animals and the Environment in Early Modern Literature

Instructor: Professor Madeline Bassnett
Winter Half Course.

This course will take up the current critical interest in animal studies and ecocriticism to investigate the poetry, prose, and drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Possible texts include Shakespeare’s King Lear, country house poems such as Ben Jonson’s “To Penshurst,” and Margaret Cavendish’s anti-hunting poems or her early sci-fi prose work, The Blazing World, which depicts a land peopled with human-animal hybrids. Living through the era of climate change known as the Little Ice Age, the early moderns, like us, confronted ecological challenges such as war, population growth, famine, and early industrialization, all of which likewise affected human-animal relationships. To help us draw analogies between past and present experience, this course will integrate critical, historical (e.g. agricultural and hunting manuals, forestry tracts, pamphlets on urban pollution), and contemporary theoretical approaches.