English 5276.03

Spectatorship in Early Modern England

Fall Term 2014

Instructors: Ron Huebert (rhuebert@dal.ca) and David McNeil (dmcneil@dal.ca)
FASS Building, 6135 University, 3193 (494-3508)

Office Hours:


This half-class will focus on the subject of spectatorship in England in the early modern period. We intend to use a number of works from the visual arts to begin an examination of how spectatorship was depicted in various texts from the early modern period. What did it mean to be a spectator during the lifetime of Shakespeare or of Wycherley? This would appear to be a question about theatre history: about how many people saw Shakespeare's plays in the outdoor (Globe) and indoor (Blackfriars) theatres, or about Restoration audiences in traditional (Drury Lane) and newly established (Lincoln's Inn Fields) locations.

The literary agenda will include four plays*, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Beaumont'sThe Knight of the Burning Pestle, Otway's Venice Preserved, and Behn's The Emoperor of the Moon; selected poems by Donne, Herrick and Marvell; and prose selections from the scriblerians, The Spectator, the works of Ned Ward (e.g., The London Spy) and the novelists (e.g., opening Chapter of Tom Jones Bk 7).

*Four different plays (Hamlet, Twelth Night, The Country Wife and The School for Scandal) were examined in 2012. Archives of those discussions, and indeed all discussions, will be made available to the 2014 seminar participants.

We will be turning to visual culture for clues about how spectatorship was transacted, in particular to paintings which foreground the activities of watching or being watched, such as Titian's Diana and Actaeon (1556-59), for example, or the renderings of Susanna and the Elders by Tintoretto (1562) and Artemisia Gentileschi (1610). Hogarth's The Laughing Audience (1733) will offer us an explicit if satirical window on eighteenth-century spectatorship. Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaas Tulp (1632), like Hogarth's The Reward of Cruelty (1751), is a visual representation of spectatorship that suggests the importance of the public spectacle in the development of early modern science and punishment. We will also take note of spectatorship in decorative art from the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (i.e., murals by Varrio and Laguerre at Hampton Court, Marlborough House, and Blenheim Palace).

We will make extensive use of online resources (ECCO, EEBO, and the Web Gallery of Art). At this point, we hope to open to be able to offer ten online spots to graduate students from other institutions who will follow the class via Bblearn (Collaborate). These would be in addition to students from our own program who would meet as a regular seminar with a live Collaborate feed.

Evaluation will be based on seminar presentations, participation and a final paper.

Method of Evaluation
Class Participation (attendance, activity, Bblearn "Discussion" postings) 10%
Seminar Presentations 20%
Essay or Research Paper 70%


Plays: (available at the Bookstore)

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Burning Pestlel

Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved

Aphra Behn, The Emperor of the Moon

Students will be responsible for accessing a number of texts online (this includes those in the EEBO and ECCO databases).

Can be taken online and used as transfer credit (consult your Registrar and Graduate Coordinator).

For more information, contact David McNeil e-mail dmcneil@dal.ca or phone (902) 494-3508.

Tentative Schedule:

09.04  Introduction

09.11  Herrick – selected poems

09.18  Hamlet

09.25   Venice Preserved

10.02   Public Executions

10.09   Public Dissections

10.16   Donne - selected poems

10.23   The Knight of the Burning Pestle

10.30   The Emperor of the Moon

11.06   The Topographical Eye

11.13   The Spectator as Decor

11.20   Marvell - selected poems

11.27   Conclusions

Presentations (Huebert and McNeil):

Below are links to Camtasia recordings of two papers presented by Professors Huebert and McNeil on the subject of Spectatorship in Early Modern England:
Last Updated: 6 August 2014