English R1A

Reading & Composition: The Garden and the Century of Revolution: English Poetry, 1600-67

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Fall 2008 Brendan M. Prawdzik
TTh 3:30-5 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. I, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et. al. (Norton, 2005).

Course Reader. (Substantial, diverse material within).

Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers ( St. Martin�s, 2003).

Diana Hacker, Developmental Exercises to Accompany Rules for Writers ( St. Martin�s, 2007). "


"Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat Sighing gave signs of woe, that all was lost. -- John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)

We will read and write about environmentally engaged poetry of seventeenth-century England as we develop practical fluency in analytical, thesis-driven writing. Emphases will include grammar, sentence- and paragraph-construction, thesis development, and organization. Students will write and revise five short (2-5 pp.) essays.

For England, the Seventeenth Century was a time of urbanization, pre-capitalist economic development, the emergence of global trade, the rise of mass-scale modern warfare, and a general distancing of God and religion from the center of psychological experience. Among so much else, Englanders lived through the beheading of the King by Parliament, the collapse of a state church, a civil war, the proliferation of radical religious sects, and the blights of urban life. Englanders benefited from scientific innovation, yet they also experienced environmental devastation and a changing relationship with the land. The traumatic transformations of religion, politics, society and culture were marked upon the changing face of the natural landscape, and they also compelled poets to re-imagine and recreate the natural world within their art. Genres like the country estate poem, pastoral lyric, and even the epic register the intimate link between history and the natural world in profound and surprising ways. For instance, Andrew Marvell�s Upon Appleton House imagines a field of shorn wheat as a �Camp of battle newly fought/ � quilted o�er with bodies slain.� Robert Herrick�s lyrics embrace an idealized countryside in order to register the acute agony of political disenfranchisement. John Milton�s Paradise Lost shows an army of devils tearing gashes into the soil in order to make canons, and nature herself bemoaning the act of Original Sin.

As we are just now learning to come to terms with the seeming imminence of an environmental apocalypse of our own making, we are in a position to empathize with and learn from these poetic mediations. We will strive to develop an environmentally centered interpretation of early modern literature based on the grounding of individual and collective consciousness in the experience of history; this could be called a �non-presentist ecocritical hermeneutic,� or, in plain old English, a way of reading that is both historically informed and environmentally engaged. At the same time, we should expect our interaction with the literature to inform our experience as cultivators of our own groaning Paradise."

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