Here Be Dragons -- Early Modernity and the Known World

R1B (Section 3) :  English Composition through French Literature in Translation
Spring 2016
L. Louie


Graham Robb, The Discovery of France; Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds [Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes]; Dave Eggers, The Circle; Other readings (including poems by Joachim Du Bellay and Clément Marot, essays by Michel de Montaigne, and excerpts from The Travels of Marco Polo) will be made available in a coursepack.

Course Description:

According to popular belief, medieval mapmakers marked unknown territory with the speculative phrase, “Here Be Dragons.” The term “Early Modern” (which usually designates the period after the Middle Ages and before the Enlightenment) might suggest to us that the people of this period were moving away from a medieval understanding of the unknown world as populated by dragons, and moving toward objectively greater geographic, anthropological, and cosmological understanding. However, in this class we will think about how this period, often viewed as a time of discovery, was also a time when different parts of France remained foreign to each other, while differences of religion, language, and gender took on new significance. We will think about how these internal divisions inform medieval and Renaissance literary accounts of novelty and foreignness, from the New World all the way to the moon. We will ask questions such as: How does new information become fact? How do old ideologies, expectations, and methodologies shape our understanding of the new? What is the relationship between literary and scientific knowledge? In what ways might our present-day understanding of the world be understood as pre-modern?

This course focuses on literary analysis and the composition of well-argued essays, building upon the skills learned in R1A. We will also be discussing how to conduct scholarly research on literary and historical topics, and how to use scholarly sources in academic writing. The writing process will be broken down into manageable components, including extensive rewriting and feedback, and we will practice different academic genres including the abstract, the annotated bibliography, and the research paper. Active participation in class discussions and an assigned reading group is required.

Additional information:

French R1B satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement. Classes are conducted in ENGLISH

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes