Studies in Renaissance Literature: Economic Thought, Early Modern Texts

Course Number: ENGL 231
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 231
Quarter: Spring 2015
Instructor: Kearney, James
Day(s): W
Time: 12:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Location: SH 2714
Description:

In this course we will cherry-pick from 2500 years of economic thought in order to consider key economic issues in relation to the literature of early modern England.  In our inquiry, we will touch on a variety of thinkers, ranging from Aristotle and Seneca to Locke and Marx, from Nietzsche and Simmel to Graeber and Massumi.  As the above list suggests, our foray into economic thought will be unapologetically transhistorical.  At the same time, we will attend to the ways in which tracing a genealogy of modern economic concepts transports us to unexpected places in the premodern discursive landscape: moral philosophy, theology, natural history.  In our discussions, we will tackle traditional economic concepts like property, debt, labor, and value, but we will also reflect on imaginative world-building, affective epistemologies, and non-human economies.  We will consider early modern literary texts such as More’s Utopia, book two of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Jonson’s Volpone, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as we discuss topics ranging from utopian desire and the disavowal of the economic to affective economies and instrumental reason, from theories of value and money to economic precarity and the anthropology of debt.