Illustration of a man with a sword and a torch hovering above a city

The seventeenth century in England was a maelstrom of revolution and historical change, from terrorism and civil war to the rise of the English empire and the beginnings of science. This tumultuous era produced some of the most daring and revolutionary literature that England has ever seen. This course surveys major works in seventeenth-century English literature from Macbeth to Paradise Lost and beyond, including works by Ben Jonson, John Webster, John Donne, Thomas Hobbes, Andrew Marvell, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, and more. We will study a number of historical developments crucial to understanding literature of the period, including religious controversy; monarchy and democratic theory; gender and the changing status of women; slavery and the growth of empire; and the beginnings of modern science. Finally, we will consider how seventeenth-century literature pops up in contemporary pop culture, from V for Vendetta to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Course requirements will include weekly discussion posts, two papers, and two exams.