ENGL 5029-001

Medieval Genres, Katie Little

The Middle Ages has long been synonymous with "quiet hierarchies," Christian dogmatism, and primitive thinking. And yet, it was also (or instead) a time of great literary invention and experimentation: the beginning of a literature in English, the emergence of new genres, and challenges to clerical dominance (to those who owned literature). This course will approach the variety and complexity, the familiarity and the weirdness of medieval literature by looking at its distinctive kinds or genres: the romance, the dream vision, the cycle play, the saints' life, the estates' satire, the devotional treatise, and the exemplum. Our medieval texts will include works by Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, Marie de France, and Julian of Norwich. Our approach to genre will be informed by recent debates over what a genre is and does, and we will touch on the following theories: socially symbolic (Fredric Jameson), reader response (Jan Radway), discourse analysis (Norman Fairclough), composition/ rhetoric (Amy Devitt), and cognitive/ literary science (the work of social psychologists).

MA Designation: Literature Before 1800, Poetry Intensive, A (Formalisms)


ENGL 5029-002

Racial Ecologies of Risk, Ramesh Mallipeddi

Plantation agriculture was a hazardous enterprise. Tropical plants, sugar in particular, are vulnerable not only to pests, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires but also to loss of soil fertility.  In his 1729 The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain Considered, the Quaker merchant Joshua Gee observed that “the island of Barbados is very much worn out, and does not afford the quantity of sugar as heretofore” (45). Planters recognized that, as fertility declined, additional slave importations and new uncultivated lands would be necessary to produce enough sugar for the world market. They endeavored, in other words, to counter the irreversible effects of environmental degradation by making African bodies and colonial landscapes replaceable.

The course examines how the plantation complex transferred risks or uncertainties entailed by speculation to its most vulnerable groups: African migrants and Caribbean slaves. Drawing on late 17th and early 18th natural and social histories of the Caribbean (by Richard Ligon, John Oldmixon, and Edward Long), Samuel Martin’s plantation manual _An Essay on Plantership_ (1762), James Grainger’s West-India Georgic _The Sugar Cane_ (1764), John Hippisley’s _On the Populousness of Africa_ (1765), the testimonies before the select committee of the House of Commons, and slave narratives such as _The History of Mary Prince_ (1831), the course investigates how the subjugation of slaves and soil, labor and land, and bodies and landscapes was a social and environmental disaster—one with lasting consequences for African Caribbean slaves and their emancipated descendants. 

MA Designation: Literature Before 1800, C (Bodies/Identities/Collectivities), D (Cultures/Politics/Histories)