English 250

Research Seminar: Representing Non-Human Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2016 Picciotto, Joanna M
M 3-6 107 Mulford Renaissance and Early Modern
British 18th-Century
Graduate Courses

Book List

Browne: The Garden of Cyrus; Darwin: The Botanic Garden; Derham: Physico-Theology; Godwin: The Man on the Moone; Goodman: The Creatures Praysing God; Hooke: Micrographia; Hutchinson: Order and Disorder; Power: Experimental Philosophy; Smart: Jubilate Agno; Sylvester: The Divine Weeks of the World's Birth; Topsell: The History of Four-Footed Beasts; Walwyn: Spirits Moderated

Other Readings and Media

Note:  Students will be given PDFs to access the texts.


We will explore techniques developed by scientists, theologians, and poets to represent other life forms. Contexts we’ll investigate include encounters with new-world flora and fauna, the invention of the microscope, and contemporary debates over reproduction and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Alongside questions related to medium and genre, we’ll consider when the representation of other creatures becomes representation in an almost political sense, casting the animal as a voiceless subject on whose behalf (and from whose “place”) the author tries to speak. We will also track how new approaches to the physical investigation of animals and plants affected their traditional status as natural symbols (of various vices and virtues, for example). Finally, we will consider the special challenges and opportunities posed by representing creatures that continued to elude empirical study, such as angels.

Secondary reading will be drawn from the history of science, with some philosophy.

All readings will be made available for free on the course site and for money as a course reader.

This course satisfies the Group 3 (Seventeenth through Eighteenth Century) requirement.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Philosophical Idealizations of Art and Modernist Practices Altieri, Charles F.
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/3 Research Seminar: Textual Communities and the Modern Picciotto, Joanna M
250/4 Research Seminar: Evolution and Literary Form, 1800-1900 Duncan, Ian
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/2 Research Seminar: Ways of Knowing, Ways of Representing in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction Sorensen, Janet
250/3 Research Seminar: Milton and the English Civil War Kahn, Victoria
250/4 Research Seminar: The Rhetoric of Technique Lavery, Grace
250/5 Research Seminar: Black Abstraction Best, Stephen M.
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Victorian Cultural Studies Puckett, Kent
250/2 Research Seminar: How to Write a Book Kahn, Victoria
250/3 Research Seminar: Paranoid States: Empire and the Rise of the Surveillance State Saha, Poulomi
250/4 Research Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, Modernism Abel, Elizabeth
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Wordsworth and Coleridge in Collaboration Goodman, Kevis
250/2 Research Seminar: Modernism in Poetry and in Art Altieri, Charles F.
250/3 Research Seminar: Idols and Ideology—Readings in Augustine, Milton, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Kant, Marx, Freud, Althusser Kahn, Victoria
Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/2 Research Seminar: Ethnic Modernisms Lee, Steven S.
250/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Brain Gang, Joshua
Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Capitalist Crisis and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
250/2 Research Seminar: The Limits of Historicism Best, Stephen M.
250/3 Research Seminar: How It Strikes a Contemporary: Reading the Novel in the 21st Century Snyder, Katherine
Snyder, Katie
250/4 Research Seminar: Modernism's Metaphysics Blanton, C. D.

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