Topics in Literature


Cleopatra, queen of the Nile, has become famous for her romantic liaisons, political maneuvering, and her death by snake bite. Yet Cleopatra was also a formidable military strategist, a powerful leader who studied medicine and spoke nearly a dozen languages. Most importantly, Cleopatra was the prototype for depicting strong women on the throne. This course will explore how Early Modern writers re-imagined Cleopatra in the Renaissance, a time which saw another strong queen, Elizabeth I, rise to power. We will pay special attention to how writers used Cleopatra to engage with Early Modern issues of globalization, gender, history, and politics. Finally, we will think about how Shakespeare and his contemporaries contrasted the exotic and sometimes scandalous Cleopatra with the virginal Queen Elizabeth. Readings may include works by Cicero, Lucan, Plutarch, and Virgil from antiquity; and plays by Marlowe, Mary Sidney, Daniel, Brandon, Elizabeth Cary, Fletcher, Dryden, and Shakespeare as well as the writings of Queen Elizabeth from the Renaissance. 3 short responses; midterm and final papers; and a presentation introducing one of the assigned readings. First-year and/or students with no prior knowledge of this topic are encouraged to enroll. Satisfies the Early Modern requirement.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU IS; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; EL EM