Jul 14, 2024  
2013-2014 Academic Catalog 
2013-2014 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ENG 316-01 - Studies in English Renaissance Literature (Fall)

4 credits
Early Modern Poetics and a Counterhistory of the Scientific Method. This course will study the central, and unexpected, role of early modern poetry and rhetoric in shaping the earliest articulations of the scientific method. During the Renaissance, poets and rhetoricians actively intervened in scientific debates, and natural philosophers defined their method in terms of the power, and the limits, of words. This course will focus on the poetry of Lucretius, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, and John Milton, the scientific prose of Francis Bacon, William Harvey, and Thomas Sprat, and the philosophical texts of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, the Cambridge Platonists, and Robert Hooke. In the course, students will rethink the scientific method in the early seventeenth century as a specific response to Renaissance debates about rhetoric and language: how do words represent things, and to what extent does language either signify or distort the “report of the senses”? For all of the poets and natural philosophers studied in the course, the articulation of an empirical method involved the reimagination of how language structures human cognition and sensate experience, and how the passions aroused by rhetoric could be harnessed to productive epistemological ends. By attending to the underrecognized historical link between literature and science, we will conclude the course with a meditation on how we might productively rethink the schism between the humanities and the sciences in our society today.

Prerequisite: ENG 223  or ENG 273 .
Instructor: Lee