Special Topics in Rhetoric
189 - 002 | CCN: 77952
Privacy, Secrecy, and Selfhood in Early Modern Europe
Date / Time: MWF 2-3P, 209 DWINELLE
This course explores literary depictions of privacy, secrecy, and emotional experience in Europe between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. This period of political, social, and religious upheaval challenged European writers to examine the boundaries that separate public life from private experience; to question the legitimacy of political and religious institutions; and to think in new ways about the nature of sexual desire, religious belief, and social identity. Poetry, narrative, drama, and other literary forms offered early modern thinkers the flexibility to explore a set of related questions: what forces shape identity, particularly during periods of social turmoil? Is there a kind of freedom in deceit, dissimulation, and disguise? How did writing about erotic, political, and philosophical “secrets” help to define new modes of subjectivity, and how might writing itself inhabit the theoretical space between public self-presentation and private emotional life? Assigned readings will include poetry by Gower, Petrarch, Chaucer, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Donne; essays by Montaigne, Francis Bacon, and Thomas More; narrative fiction by Margaret Cavendish and John Lyly; and critical works by Foucault, Habermas, Auerbach, Norbert Elias, and Natalie Zemon Davis.