Seminar in Renaissance British Literature: Resistance, Rebellion, and Revolution in Premodern Britain
Is a republic the ideal form of government? Is a revolution necessary to achieve it? Should a tyrant be resisted, and how? How do constructions of gender and ethnicity affect views of belonging and citizenship? And what role does narrative have in how we imagine, explain, and justify political entities? This interdisciplinary course charts the often overlooked contributions of literature to political thought in England and Scotland from the later Middle Ages to the establishment of the British Commonwealth in the seventeenth century.
Major topics include developing theories of sovereignty, consent, tyranny, and constitutionalism as they are reflected upon and challenged in literature by Geoffrey Chaucer, John Barbour, William Shakespeare, William Alexander, John Milton, and Katherine Philips. We will compare their views to political thought in this historical context by authors such as John Fortescue, George Buchanan, Elizabeth I, James VI, and Thomas Hobbes. Our study of the sometimes radical and sometimes repressive views on government and authority in premodern Scotland and England will also identify some of the key antecedents to the principles of the American Revolution. The course includes trips to MU Ellis's Special Collections to study primary materials and an end-of-semester research presentation event.
Note: This graduate seminar is open to advanced undergraduates (junior/senior standing) by instructor permission.