2018-2019 Catalog

ENGL 322 Renaissance Cultures of Punishment

The Renaissance and Reformation in England witnessed the rise of imperial projects and the emergence of more centralized institutions to police sin and illegality in society; both were intended to enhance the sovereignty of the British state. This class explores the literary responses to such shifts in the culture of punishment and the project of state-building, asking why some of the most innovative works of drama, poetry, and prose in this period struggle with the purpose and effects of imprisonment, trial, penance, and slavery. Four main topics will organize the course: punishment and colonialism; the economic, theological, rhetorical, and theatrical underpinnings of legal trial; martyrdom; and the rise of the transatlantic slave trade. Each section of the course is divided into a series of sub-topics (ranging from questions of genre and psychology, to the humanist culture of teaching) to be explored through examination of a literary text and related historical and theoretical materials. Authors will include: John Foxe, Elizabeth I, Edmund Spenser, Michel de Montaigne, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Aphra Behn, among others.


4 units


One 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing

Core Requirements Met

  • Pre-1800
  • Regional Focus