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

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.

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