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  1. Years before he preached to the Virginia Company, John Donne had explored the theme of American colonization in his erotic poetry. In "Elegy 19. To His Mistress Going to Bed" (NAEL 8, 1.1282), Donne addresses his mistress as "O my America! My new-found-land. . . ." (line 27). Does the sermon to the Virginia Company shed light on what, for Donne, was at stake in comparing a woman's naked body to a region awaiting colonization? Conversely, can it be argued that there is an implicit erotic dimension to Donne's sermon?
  2. Whereas Donne's "Sermon to the Virginia Company" and Blenerhasset's "Direction for the Plantation of Ulster" deal with specific colonial projects, Francis Bacon's essay "Of Plantations" (NAEL 8, 1.1557) seeks to present, in a small space, a general theory of colonization. What can a comparison of these texts teach us about the relation of colonial theory to colonial practice?
    1. Whereas Bacon expresses a preference for settlement in "a pure soil," where there are no prior occupants, Donne offers various justifications for planting in inhabited regions. How does Donne attempt to counter the Baconian perception that such "plantation" is really "extirpation"?
    2. The messy and violent plantation of Ulster by Protestant settlers was a far cry from Bacon's theoretical ideal. Are there nevertheless important points of agreement between Bacon's "Of Plantations" and Blenerhasset's Direction?
  3. Donne finds justification for the expropriation of Native American lands in what he terms the "law of nature" as well as in the Acts of the Apostles. Compare Donne's arguments with those used by Gerrard Winstanley to lay claim to "waste" ground for use by the communist Diggers (NAEL 8, 1.1752). What similarities and what differences do you perceive between the two writer's understandings of natural and divine law?
  4. In "A Dialogue Between Old England and New," Anne Bradstreet represents New England as a reformed and godly community from which Old England has much to learn. Compare her representation of a reformed New World with Andrew Marvell's in the short poem, "Bermudas" (NAEL 8, 1.1698). In what ways does each poem comment critically on the country the English settlers have left behind? Does Marvell's poem hold out the same hope of Old English reform?
  5. Roger Williams proposed a system of secular government based on the toleration of diverse religious and political views. His antithesis in this respect was the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who believed that peace could only be established where all people surrendered their will to that of an absolute sovereign. Compare the excerpts from Hobbes's Leviathan (NAEL 8, 1.1596–1605) with Williams's Bloody Tenent. Are there in fact any points of contact between these two political thinkers? What significance is given to the New World in their respective arguments?
  6. Many of Jonson's masques present stereotypical images of "others" — such as blacks, witches, gypsies, pygmies, Welshmen, and Irishmen — who are ultimately banished or transformed by the radiant presence of the king. Compare The Masque of Blackness (NAEL 8, 1.1326–34) with The Irish Masque at Court. Are the "others" in these masques merely crude caricatures, or can they be seen as genuinely threatening or subversive? What happens to them at the end of the masque?
  7. Jonson's Irish Masque at Court and Blenerhasset's Direction for the Plantation of Ulster were both written in the second decade of the seventeenth century, when Ireland was largely at peace. How do these works differ in their representation of the native Irish from works such as Edmund Spenser's View of the Present State of Ireland or John Derricke's Image of Ireland, both written in the Elizabethan period, when Ireland was torn by war. Have English attitudes to the Irish changed or softened at all following the island's pacification?
  8. Although there may have been no Jews living legally in England in the early seventeenth century, modern Jews and ancient Israelites featured prominently in English writing. Consider what ideas, fears, hopes, or fantasies about the Jews emerge in one or more of the following works:
    1. Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam (NAEL 8, 1.1538–42);
    2. Gerrard Winstanley, The True Leveller's Standard Advanced
    3. John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 12 (NAEL 8, 1.2041–55)
  9. Menasseh ben Israel knew that in publishing his plea for Jews to be readmitted to England, he was addressing an anti-Semitic society whose image of the Jew was largely composed of ancient prejudices and stereotypes. He was also aware that the religious and political ferment of the 1640s and 1650s had encouraged some among the English to perceive the Jews in a new light. How does Menasseh ben Israel attempt to take advantage of these new attitudes in his plea, whilst evading age-old prejudices? What do the responses of W. H. and Margaret Fell indicate about English perceptions of Jews in the 1650s?

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