ENGL 5428 Exiles, Captives, and Migrants

The recent emergence of closed borders, states of emergency, and contact tracing has revived questions about the nature of travel that were fiercely debated in the early modern world. Who is permitted to travel, and what spaces remain off-limits to them? What are the rights and responsibilities of those who move across borders—whether as tourists, merchants, spies, or settlers? How do nation-states seek to calculate (and control) the costs and benefits of a newly globalized environment? And how are all of these questions shaped by the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and Indigeneity? In this course, we’ll read early modern plays that explore how the experience of travel in this period could swing from illuminating to terrifying, with major political and cultural effects. Each week, we will discuss texts that figure travel not as the free movement of liberal subjects, but as the result of mixed motivations: anxiety and longing, political persecution and exile, new opportunities for profit and exploitation, or large-scale trafficking and enslavement. Guided both by recent scholarship and by contemporary travel guides, legal petitions, and diplomatic records, together we will map out aspects of early modern travel that are often overlooked.