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SPRING 2015


RSCP. 83100 - Remembering & Repressing: Early Modern Cultural Appropriation and Historical Trauma  GC:  M, 6:30-8:30pm p.m., Rm. TBA, 3/4 credits, Prof. Elsky, [27038] Cross listed with ENGL 81100

One of the consequences of the mounting critique of historicism has been the rise of memory studies. This course will explore the various ways anachronic memory seeks to replace history in early modern literature and culture.  We will begin with an introduction to cultural memory studies, with special emphasis on the construction of a coherent personal and social identity by projecting the past into the present as overlapping temporalities. 

We will look at the various ways the arts made the past part of everyday life, but we will place special emphasis on works in which the most startling effects are produced by resistance to integration.  Throughout the course we will explore the role of memory at a time of uncertain, ambivalent, and conflicted national and religious boundaries. 

We will look at the period’s most ambitious memory project, the retrieval of classical antiquity. We will attempt to redefine the concept of imitation as anxious and conflicted memory, especially in Petrarch,  and then move to classical imitation in England as repressed memory of Roman tyranny in Britain filtered through a variety of ethnic pasts—Celtic, Gothic, and Norman, leading to the manipulation of overlapping pasts to establish national identity, as in Shakespeare. 

The second half of the course will turn to the period’s other major memory project, religious memory, specifically representations of traumatic memory during England’s Catholic and Protestant reigns. We will consider how Catholics and Protestants remembered their own pasts and expropriated each other’s during times of persecution. We will end this half of the course by considering the memorial re-mapping of the scriptural and medieval Jewish past, including the discovery of Jewish remains in London.

The course will conclude with a refreshing reminder look at the period’s iconic meditation on the futility of memory, Thomas Browne’s Urn Burial. In addition to Petrarch, Shakespeare and Browne, readings will include Jonson, Herbert, and Stow, as well as excerpts from Early Modern historiography, both Catholic and Protestant, and art historical materials.

Assignments include oral report and longer term project.

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