Module Identifier EN37120  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Claire E Jowitt  
Semester Intended for use in future years  
Next year offered N/A  
Next semester offered N/A  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   20 Hours Seminar. (10 x 2 hour seminar workshops)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment Essay: 2 x 2,500 word continuously assessed essays 

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:

1. demonstrate a broad awareness of the range and variety of literary representations of the New World in the early modern period;

2. assess the relationship between fictional representations of the New World and the historical conditions of its conquest, exploration and settlement;

3. articulate this knowledge and understanding in the form of a reasoned critical analysis of particular texts;

4. explain and engage with relevant aspects of recent critical and/or theoretical debates about the texts studied.


This module aims:

1. to introduce students to some of the earliest writing about America;

2. to introduce students to the variety and range of New World writing;

3. to familiarise students with the range of genres used to represent America;

4. to familiarise students with American colonial history;

5. to explore the interaction between 'literary' and 'historical' versions of colonial America;

6. to encourage students to read early American texts historically.

Brief description

This module introduces students to the kinds of descriptions of the New World in circulation in the first two hundred years after 'discovery'. From Columbus' first footfall in 1492 (when he believed he had merely discovered a new route to the Old World) until the mid-seventeenth century (when European trade with and settlements in the New World were well-established), we explore the varied and contradictory representations of the land that came to be called 'America'.

We study conquistadors' accounts of the conquest of America where, for example, the land is represented as a virgin to be penetrated and the indigenous inhabitants are described as animals or slaves to be put to work or killed. We look at the ways American dreams turned to nightmares by focusing on the European debate about human rights because of New World atrocities. We then turn to look at the uses English explorers made of the so-called 'Black Legend' concerning Spanish treatment of indigenous Americans in order to further their own territorial ambitions. We look at the ways English colonists, like the Spanish before them, represented their relationship with 'America' sexually as they searched for the gold of the fabled Eldorado. We also explore other fantasies that English writers used to represent America. A central concern of this module is the relationship between 'real' and 'imagined' versions of American life in this period.



Part I: Real or Imagined Worlds? First Descriptions of the New World

Seminar 1: First Encounters

Seminar 2: First Fictions

Part II: A Dream Gone Sour: The Colonisation of America and The Black Legend

Seminar 3: Conquistadors and Colonisation

Seminar 4: New World Nightmares: Cruelty and Genocide in Early America

Seminar 5

Part III: A British Example? Colonial Fantasies and the British Empire

Seminar 6: Island Fantasies (i)

Seminar 7: Island Fantasies (ii)

Seminar 8: Island Fantasies (iii)

Part IV: New World Fantasy

Seminar 9: A Brave New World? Science and Society

Seminar 10: Sexual Fantasy in the New World

Reading Lists

** Should Be Purchased
Christopher Columbus (ed. J. M. Cohen) The Four Voyages Penguin
Susan Bruce (ed.) Three Early Modern Utopias Oxford
Bernal Diaz (ed. J. M. Cohen) The Conquest of New Spain Penguin
William Shakespeare The Tempest any edition
Bartolome de Las Casas (ed. B.M. Donovan) The Devastation of the Indies John Hopkins University Press
** Recommended Background
W. S. Maltby (1971) The Black Legend in England: The Development of Anti-Spanish Sentiment, 1558-1660 Duke University Press
J. H. Eliot (1970) The Old World and the New 1492-1650 Cambridge University Press
Mary Fuller (1995) Voyages in Print: English Travel to America, 1576-1624 Cambridge University Press
Andrew Hadfield (1998) Literature, Travel and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance 1545-1625 Oxford University Press
Walter S. H. Lim (1998) The Arts of Empire: The Poetics of Colonialism from Ralegh to Milton University of Delaware Press
Jeffrey Knapp (1992) An Empire Nowhere: England, America and Literature from Utopia to the Tempest University of California Press
Claire Jowitt (2002) Voyage Drama and Gender Politics 1589-1642 Manchester University Press
Stephen Greenblatt (1991) Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World Clarendon Press
Wayne Franklin (1979) Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers: The Diligent Writers of Early America University of Chicago Press
John Bakeless (1961) America As Seen By Its First Explorers Dover
Anthony Pagden (1993) European Encounters with the New World Yale University Press
Bronwen Price (ed.) (2002) Francis Bacon's The New Atlantis : New Interdisciplinary Essays Manchester University Press
Gesa Mackenthum (1997) Metaphors of Dispossession: American Beginnings and the Translation of Empire 1492-1637 University of Oklahoma Press
Tzvetan Todorov (1984) The Conquest of America Harper & Row


This module is at CQFW Level 6