WiSe 12/13: S-Surveying English Literatures II: Set in London-Early Modern City Comedy
Anyone intrigued by "deeds, and language, such as men do use; / And persons, such as Comedy would choose;" anyone inclined to agree that "tragic passion / And such grave stuff, is this day out of ... Lesen Sie weiter
Anyone intrigued by "deeds, and language, such as men do use; / And persons, such as Comedy would choose;" anyone inclined to agree that "tragic passion / And such grave stuff, is this day out of fashion," might want to consider taking this course. The quotations are taken from two plays first staged around 1600. And while it is not quite true that tragedy was "out of fashion," it is definitely true that a specific kind of comedy was very much in vogue: city comedy or citizen comedy.
In this course we will read four early modern city comedies: Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, Ben Jonson's Every Man In His Humour (first quotation), Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton's The Roaring Girl, and Eastward Ho by George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston (second quotation). The plays are heterogeneous in a number of ways, but they are united by their presentation of urban life. Unlike Shakespeare's romantic comedies, for example, they are all set in a recognisable contemporary London, and deal with the "everyday" lives of "ordinary" people. "Money and sex, rather than Shakespearean courtship and romance, are central to these plays," as Pascale Aebischer puts it.
Tracing the steps of gallants, tricksters, prostitutes, citizen wives, and city merchants around early modern London, the plays virtually "map" the city - both geographically and socially. Despite their often mundane subject matter, the texts can be rather challenging to read, as they abound with regional colloquialisms and allusions to specific places, people and fashions. By examining a range of critical texts, the course also aims to introduce students to the study of early modern literature and culture more generally. Among other things, we will discuss questions of class, gender, performance practices, and the emergence of capitalism and consumerism.
All four plays are available in a single volume with an excellent introduction and helpful notes on the texts. Students wishing to participate in this course should purchase a copy of this edition as soon as possible (details see below). Assessment will be on the basis of active participation in class (including a short presentation) and the submission of an essay. The course will be taught in English (level C1).
Recommended edition (all plays in one volume):
Knowles, James. The Roaring Girl and Other City Comedies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.