Department of English

University of Toronto

2000 Series 2010-11


This course investigates the complex, shifting boundary between the animal and the human in classical and early modern thought. Beginning with Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch, we will examine how the division between animals and humans was constituted and how that boundary was imaginatively and poetically transgressed through the metamorphic hybridity of Ovidian myth. We will explore the figuration of the animal/human divide in humanism (Pico della Mirandola), skeptical responses to it (Montaigne, Donne), literary representations (Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Webster, and Milton), and theoretical writing (Elias, Derrida, Agamben). The course will consider such topics as language, rationality, souls, early modern science and medicine, the passions, the senses, physiognomy, and the civilizing process. Our exploration will include Werner Herzog’s film Grizzly Man and J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, a novel that comments in powerful philosophical and moral terms on the early modern roots of the human treatment of animals.

Course Requirements
Oral presentation (25%), active participation in class discussion (10%), prospectus for research essay and bibliography (15%), and one research essay (15-20 pages) (50%).

Aristotle, The History of Animals
Plutarch, Moralia  
Ovid, Metamorphoses
John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man
Ben Jonson, Volpone
Edmund Spenser, Mother Hubbard’s Complaint, Faerie Queene, Book II
Montaigne, Apologie of Raymond Sebond
John Donne, Metempsychosis
William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
John Milton, Paradise Lost (selections)
Edward Topsell, The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (selections)
J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello
Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process
Jacques Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am” and “Say the Animal Responded”
Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal

Monday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 248, University College 



In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, men and women turned to conduct manuals and epistolary handbooks to hone the linguistic and gestural codes that would enable them to shine in a variety of social spaces and to negotiate a culture in which status was no longer guaranteed solely by birth. Yet recent studies of courtesy theory and “civil conversation” have often neglected to probe how gender complicates our understanding of decorous verbal and physical interchange. This seminar will consider how the gendering of civil discourses shaped social performance and rhetorical practice in early modern cultural and literary contexts. We will begin by assessing how gender informs precepts governing courtesy and civility as outlined and modeled for readers in popular conduct literature of the period. We will then turn to a series of literary case studies in order to explore how writers like Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Aemilia Lanyer, Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley, and Margaret Cavendish engage with, enact, and transform gendered codes of civil interaction.

Active and informed participation in class discussion (15%), an in-class presentation (25%), two short response papers/reviews (10% each), and a final research paper (15-20 pages) (40%).

Texts will include Spenser's Faerie Queene (Book VI); Shakespeare's Measure for Measure; Jonson's Epicoene, or the Silent Woman; Lanyer's Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum; Cavendish and Brackley's The Concealed Fancies; Cavendish's Sociable Letters; excerpts from Brathwaite's The English Gentleman and The English Gentlewoman; Castiglione's The Courtier; Guazzo's The Civile Conversation; Hawkins' Youths' Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men; Codrington's The Second Part of Youths Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Women; Puttenham's The Art of English Poesie; Vives' The Instruction of a Christian Woman; and selected critical and theoretical readings.

Some familiarity with early modern literature and culture will be helpful but is not required.

Tuesday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street



Since the early eighties – and even more so after the break-up of the Soviet Union – the study of nations and nationalism in the social sciences and humanities has moved center-stage. In literary studies, the field has been dominated by Benedict Anderson’s version of the modernization theories of Ernst Gellner and his student, Tom Nairn. Anderson’s 1983 account of the modern nation as a discursively constructed community whose imagined sense of continuity enables it to rival religion in affective power has been as influential as it has in literary studies precisely because of its emphasis on the nation’s construction being discursive or textual – that is, its emphasis on the modern nation being primarily a function of a print culture, “conceived in language, not in blood” (Imagined Communities [p.145]). This emphasis had the effect of reinforcing literary critics’ confidence in the importance of their textualist habits of thought and practice (whether post-structuralist or more traditional) by giving them a new socially oriented telos – a vitally important new focus through which to explain the cultural or ideological works of literature. No poet-cum-political theorist lends himself as easily to the exploration of the validity of these theories, especially Anderson’s, as John Milton. This course will examine the phenomenon of the early modern nation using Milton as a case study. In order to focus on the question of the modernity of Milton’s nationalism, then, the course will discuss such issues as (a) the rival claims of messianic time and a newly emergent sense of historicity, (b) Protestant universalism and the idealization of the exclusive biblical nation, (c) classical republicanism, civility and its idealization of the Roman imperium, (d) education, literacy, and print and their impact on individual identity and gender formation, and (e) custom and the rival claims of ethnic and civic nationalism. Early modern theorists to be discussed include Machiavelli, Sir Thomas Smith, Bodin, and Hobbes; contemporary theorist Anderson, Greenfeld, Zizek, and Hardt and Negri. Texts by Milton to be discussed include Areopagitica, Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, Observations, Eikonoklastes, First Defence of the English People, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes.


Active participation in discussion, seminar presentation, research essay, and colloquium paper (oral version of research essay).

Thursday 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street 

LONDON DRAMA 1190-1590

An examination of the records of theatrical activities-¬plays and pageants--in London from c. 1180 to 1590, with analysis of specific texts in terms of their definite or possible London theatrical, social, and political contexts. For the early years, given the non-survival of play texts for London itself, we will examine plays, from elsewhere, of the type that records indicate were being performed in London; for pageantry, however, there are descriptions specifically involving London from the thirteenth century on. Later, surviving play texts include, for the fifteenth century, mummings by John Lydgate and plays by Henry Medwall; and for 1500-1580 we have definite or possible London plays by dramatists such as John Skelton, John Heywood, John Rastell(?), Sackville and Norton, and George Gascoigne, as well as a good variety of anonymous plays. Pageant descriptions become gradually lengthier 1445-1558. Between 1580 and 1590 come works by dramatists still well-known today, such as Lyly, Peele, Greene, and Marlowe, and minor but important London-focused work by writers such as Robert Wilson. tudies of the drama before 1558 normally dwell on texts from outside London, or look at texts in isolation from their particular "location" contexts; yet studies of the drama after 1580 focus almost entirely on London theatre. This course covers the comparatively ignored territory of theatrical activity in England's major urban centre over some 400 years before the Shakespearean period, ending just as Shakespeare's first plays appear on London stages.


One or two introductory lectures on London drama generally; seminar presentations and discussion; major research paper. Regular and prepared attendance is required.

Lists of primary and secondary materials will be available in summer 2010. Primary texts will include pageant descriptions from manuscripts (now printed) and chronicle histories, and a wide selection of plays both anonymous and by known authors. Secondary materials will include cultural, social, and political history, theatrical records, and scholarly publications such as Manley's Literature and Culture in Early Modern London (1995) and Kipling's Enter the King (1998). Knowledge of some of Shakespeare's major plays will be assumed.

*Thursday 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. - NOTE: DATE & TIME CHANGE 
Room B203, University College


Powerful claims have been made for how Shakespeare extended the resources and tapped the potential of the English language, from Francis Meres’ 1598 comments including him among poets by whom “the English tongue is mightily enriched, and gorgeously invested in rare ornaments” to Frank Kermode’s renewed assertion in 2001 that “the life of the plays is in the language.” Nonetheless, when new historicism was dominant, scant attention was paid to verbal artistry. Criticism has recently taken up the challenge to bridge the gap between cultural history and close analysis, and this seminar will explore important questions about what a newly historicized engagement with the complex language of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry might look like. For instance, should it attend primarily to the sociohistorical contexts of verbal exchanges, finding ways to substantiate Bakhtin’s claim that the “internal politics of style” is partly determined by the “external politics” of social relationships, class structures, or gender ideologies? Should it place a strong focus on dialogic interaction, on how social relationships and corresponding subjectivities are built up through language? Should it engage with the history of the English language itself, focusing on linguistic changes like the huge influx of new words in Shakespeare’s time or contemporary interest in grammatical categories like the “potential mood”? Should it use old tools or new tools, Elizabethan rhetoric or modern-day discourse analysis? Among other topics, our seminar will consider how Shakespeare's works appropriate and re-accent social discourses of his time: for example, the abject language of service in the Sonnets, or the elite verbal bonding practices (scoff power and scoff proofing) of London speech communities like the Inns of Court in Love’s Labour’s Lost. We will look at Shakespeare's fascination with the rhetoric and power dynamics of ordinary conversation, with the language training of humanist grammar-schools, with everyday miscomprehension as a motor for language innovation, with different ways that orality and print literacy were affecting language exchange. The main focus of the course will be on a quest for productive methodologies and innovative analytical practices. While Shakespeare’s texts will serve as examples, this inquiry into method should have wider application to the language of other literary and social texts. The course will bring to its reconsideration of Shakespeare’s language an interdisciplinary gathering of readings, including Bakhtin on dialogism, Bourdieu on economics of linguistic exchanges, Brown and Levinson on politeness, as well as readings in the history of early modern English, discourse pragmatics, and rhetoric.

Course Requirements
The course will be conducted primarily as a seminar. To explore the material as fully as possible and to practice professional skills, seminar member will exchange email responses to selected class readings with other members, engage in a “try-out seminar” to experiment with new or unfamiliar tools for close analysis, and present a short colloquium paper (written version 12-15 pages).
If reading ahead, choose among Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, Sonnets (Norton); M. M. Bakhtin, from The Dialogic Imagination (1981), pp. 250-300, 324-58. A collection of methodological readings will supplement the Shakespeare text.

*Wednesday 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.  NOTE TIME CHANGE CORRECTION
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street 


The course proposes to examine the ways in which English Renaissance playwrights, especially Shakespeare, created dramas from popular legend. Examining one play at a time, we’ll attempt to determine the narrative formats of the legends behind dramas from a selected group which will include Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1 and 2 Henry IV, Troilus and Cressida, and King Lear, as well as works by such writers as Marlowe, Greene, Peele, and Thomas Heywood. (At its first meetings, the class will choose the plays it wants to study from the selected group. We make the decision by voting). We’ll attempt to become familiar with the particular legends as an English Renaissance audience would have known them: that is with the basic events, their arrangement, and the place in this scheme of the major characters. When possible, information from literary sources will be supplemented by information from visual representations. (For both I and II Henry IV, and Troilus and Cressida, for example, a wealth of visual material helps to establish the forms in which Shakespeare’s audience knew the stories.) Having formulated the legend as an early modern audience would have viewed it, we’ll focus in each case on the ways in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries actually presented their versions. In short, we’ll be trying to understand how playwrights of the period used audience anticipation of familiar tales as part of their dramaturgy. Whenever a play we’re considering has been appropriated by contemporary cinema, we’ll include discussion of the film(s) in our overview of the dramatic text.


The course will be conducted as a seminar, with a combination of presentations and one major essay. Initially we’ll attempt to work out readings of either Romeo and Juliet or I and II Henry IV (depending upon the preference of the class) in light of the popular legends on which they were based. Afterwards we’ll concentrate on whichever five or six plays the class selects.

Students will do most of their reading for the course in the various University of Toronto libraries.

No special preparation is required except for familiarity with English Renaissance drama.

Tuesday 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Room 213
, Trinity College Larkin


A study of selected major tragedies written for early modern English stages, focusing primarily on close readings of the plays as literary works written for performance. Topics to be considered include: generic conventions and audience expectations; the relationship between the visual, oral, and aural; the language of stage directions; metatheatrical self-reference; the possible influence of one play on another; the original text and modern editors.

A 15-minute seminar presentation (20%), an annotated bibliography for the seminar (20%), informed and regular participation in class discussion (10%), and in close reading assignments (10%), a 15-page research paper (40%). The first two hours of each class will be devoted to seminar presentations and discussion; the third hour will focus on close reading of an assigned speech, scene, or part of a scene.

Eleven plays by a range of authors (dates approximate): Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (1587); Christopher Marlowe, Edward II (1592); Shakespeare, Richard III (1592), Hamlet (1600); Thomas Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603); Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606); Anon./Middleton?, The Revenger’s Tragedy (1606); Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (1607); John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (1613); Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling (1621); John Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1632).

A list of secondary materials will be distributed once the course has begun.

While there are no prerequisites, some knowledge of dramatic genres, especially tragedy, and previous study of Shakespeare and/or his contemporaries are strongly recommended.

Friday 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

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