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17th-Century Dilemmas: Morality, Sexuality, Faith and Reason in Selected 17th-Century Writers

Class at Faculty of Arts |



The purpose of this seminar is to provide an introduction to a variety of seventeenth-century texts, including poetry, drama and prose, and to the new ways of thinking and the new forms of writing in the period. The seventeenth-century most significantly reflects the modern idea of individualism ? the importance of personal experiences. Philosophy and science intensified religious doubt, bringing into focus the conflict between faith and reason. Protestant theology, Puritanism in particular, emphasised moral discipline and purity, and warned against the dangers of emotion and sexuality. The issues about which seventeenth-century intellectuals were divided still feel modern; the tensions ? between reason and faith, reason and emotion, the public sphere and the private, social obligations and natural impulses ? are what makes their works alive.

No previous knowledge of seventeenth-century English literature and contexts will be assumed. We shall analyse short poems and extracts from prose and drama, and discuss the questions and anxieties that the texts pose and reveal.


Students will be required to read the appropriate text before they attend the class. Reading assignments will be short. The only exception will be Shakespeare?s Measure for Measure ? it will be necessary to read the whole play.