WiSe 17/18: "Had I plantation of this isle." Narratives of exploration and exploitation
Early European writings on the recently discovered New World share assumptions about the role and value of colonies from a European perspective. How the process of exploration and exploitation of the ... read more
Early European writings on the recently discovered New World share assumptions about the role and value of colonies from a European perspective. How the process of exploration and exploitation of the brave new world(s) was envisaged, what role settlements and emigration, colonization and education played, and how the race to fully claim the colonies reflected back on the competing European cultures will be explored in this seminar, with texts ranging from William Shakespeare’s view of Utopia – “this isle” – in “The Tempest” to the economist Adam Smith, who famously wrote about “the rapid progress of our American colonies towards wealth and greatness.”
This seminar is designed to provide an in-depth approach to texts that helped shape the discourse on America, both from a European and an American perspective. We will bring different disciplines to the analysis of a cultural phenomenon, from historical contextualization and models of political analysis to the rhetoric of power and domination and a philosophy of man that is deeply embedded in Western thought. Our main activity in the first sessions of this seminar will therefore be a close reading of seminal texts, followed by in-depth analyses of research questions by teams of students.
Seminar participants are required to familiarize themselves with the anthology of seminal texts by Giles Gunn, ed., Early American Writing (Penguin).
Before the beginning of the seminar please read the following four novels: Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders; Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa), The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; Thomas More, Utopia; Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette.
A recommendation for further reading and a bibliography will be available upon registration.
Seminar format and requirements
Regular attendance and active participation are required – not “mute reflection, from which it is hardly possible to rouse [a student]”, as Hawthorne has it, but a willingness to join the discussion is an integral requirement.
In the first meetings of this seminar students will give a short talk of 15 minutes on a topic that illustrates their disciplinary background and approach, including a handout with quotations, sources, and a short bibliography of five titles.
During the second half of the seminar, beginning around midterm, a more elaborate presentation is required on one of the texts that form the core of this class. For this you will team up with another student and give that presentation together, followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by you. The discussion immediately after your presentation will be based on your handout and you Powerpoint-presentation. During “your” session you will be providing initial input and then chair the session. Please see me two weeks prior to your presentation to discuss the details.
If you want to write a thesis paper: This will be on the topic of your presentation, but please see me during office hours to discuss your approach. Papers are due in electronic form March 31st, 2018.
A detailed syllabus will be available in the first session of this seminar.