M 3-6 4125A Dwinelle Instructor: Victoria Kahn

Did the Renaissance have a conception of “literature”?  In this seminar we will study the genesis of modern secular literary culture during the fifteenth,  sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Our focus will be on the changing relationship between imaginative or “fictional” writing and the discourses that border the “literary” and help shape its emerging position center of the public sphere. Beginning with debates about the status of “poetry” at the end of the Middle Ages, we will focus on a series of major literary texts that raise questions about the status of the literary, both in its different socio-political settings (city state, court, Church) and in its relationship to other forms of writing (legal fictions, travel writing, political philosophy, religious polemic) that use fiction and discuss the imagination.  Primary literary works will be studied in dialogue with emerging literary theory of the early modern period, as fiction and critical discourse shape each other.  No less important will be our engagement with recent critical writings on the “literary,” the “public,” and the “political” world. Readings in Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Rabelais, Erasmus, Du Bellay, Sidney, Don Quijote, Hobbes, Milton, Descartes, and Racine.