Literature of Temptation Over Time

Apple and SnakeTemptation takes us to texts across centuries and continents.  In this course we will move among literary periods and across oceans as we examine this theme that dates to Genesis in the Bible. We will build a timeline as we go and add maps and images and related historical context to tease out the richness of this theme in literary studies. 



Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 17 of 17
Date Event Created by Associated Places

Birth of Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (1564-93)

This portrait of an anonymous artist is believed to be of Christopher Marlowe (1564-93).  It was painted in 1585. 

Christopher Marlowe was a leading Elizabethan playwright and poet . The most important dramatist before William Shakespeare, Marlowe earned a reputation for the establishment of dramatic blank verse. His playwriting career lasted just over six years, but he achieved greatness and is best known today for Dr. Faustus, published posthumously in 1604 and 1616. His career was cut short. Marlowe died young and under mysterious circumstances. Was his death in a brawl over a lodging house bill linked to his alleged involvement as a spy in Queen Elizabeth I's secret service? 

Catherine Golden
26 Apr 1564 to 23 Apr 1616

Marlowe's Contemporary, William Shakespeare

The Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare, 1610

Shakespeare (1564-1616), a respected Elizabethan playwright and poet, was a contemporary of Christopher Marlowe.  Scholars believe Marlowe and Shakespeare likely knew each other because the worked in same field and their plays were produced around the same time.  Was Marlowe a spy and assinated at the request of the Crown? Some scholars believe that Marlowe's death was faked and that he went into hiding and, under the patronage of Thomas Walsingham. wrote plays attributed to Shakespeare. This wild theory is called the Marlovian Consipiracy. 


Catherine Golden
circa. 1611


The FallThe Fall of Man (1615) by Jan Brueghel de Oude en Peter Paul Rubens

Genesis in the Bible, recorded in the King James version of the Bible published in 1611, includes the creation of humankind and the temptation of Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden is described in the Bible as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by G-d. This garden forms part of the creation myth and helps to explain the notion of original sin and mankind's wrongdoings. Eden's location is still under speculation among—is it near the Tigris and Euphrates (northern Mesopotamia), in Iraq (Mesopotamia), Africa, the Persian Gulf, or metaphorical?

Catherine Golden

Publication of Dr. Faustus

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher (Kit) Marlowe is based on the Faust story in which a man sells his soul to the devil for unlimited power and knowledge. Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604,  eleven years after Marlowe's death and at least twelve years after the first performance of the play.  Better known is the 1616 version, which may be an adaptation of the play by other playwrights.

If we set this play in a literary history context, Marlowe’s Faust is caught between the Church-dominated consciousness of the Middle Ages (6th to 15th centuries) and the humanism characteristic of the Renaissance (literature primarily written between 1500-1660). Equally, Faust has qualities that harken back to the earlier epic tradition:  he will undertake a journey, as is so with the heroes of traditional epics. 

Catherine Golden
28 Nov 1757 to 12 Aug 1827

William Blake (1757-1827)

Portrait of Blake by Thomas Philips, 1897

National Portrait Gallery, Thomas Phillips, 1807 portrait of Blake 

William Blake (1757-1827) speaks to the Romantic Age.  Largely self-educated, he iscelebrated today as a poet and printmaker as well as a visionary.  If his contemporaries largely neglected him, today he is celebrated for his imagination and creativity.  He is a key Romantic poet.

Catherine Golden
circa. 1760 to circa. 1840

Industrial Revolution


George Cruikshank, "London Going Out of Town, or, The March of Bricks & Mortar," 1829.

 As England moved from an agrarian society to an urban one, people began to lament the loss of nature.  Leading caricaturist George Cruikshank animates the building blocks of industry--shovels and bricks move into and erode the countryside while personified haystacks look on in horror. Not surprising, the Industrial Revolution had a major impact on Romantic poetry by authors including William Blake and William Wordsworth. Nostalgia for the pastoral also resonates in  literature of the long nineteenth century by authors including Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. 

Catherine Golden
16 Dec 1775 to 18 Jul 1817

Birth of Jane Austen


Above is the parsonage in Steventon, Jane Austen's childhood home.  She was born there on December 16, 1775 on a crisp winter day. 

Catherine Golden
circa. 1779 to circa. 1779

William Blake Completes Apprenticeship and Starts Independent Career

In 1779 William Blake completed his apprenticeship and started an independent career as an engraver. In addition to working on his own artwork, he did comission work for other artists, much of it engraving. The conventional method of engraving at this time was copperplate engraving, a very long and tedious process that came about in the 15th century. It required many slow and careful hours of work because any mistakes would be impossible to correct without restarting the piece. Copperplate engraving uses an intaglio printing technique. Lines are carved into the plate and ink is placed into the grooves and then wiped away from the rest of the piece. The plate is then pressed into a humid sheet of paper using a printing press. Copperplate engraving was said to produce more exquisite images than woodcuts, though many famous engravers -- Blake included -- were masters of both techniques. For many of his most famous works, however, Blake used a method of printing that he invented called "illuminated printing," though it is known today as relief etching. This method involved painting the design on the copper plate backwards using an ink that was resistant to nitric acid. When the plate was put in the acid, it would etch away all of the unprotected metal and leave the design raised so that it could be easily printed. 

Sophia Delchery
circa. 1800

Regency England--the Age of Austen

The Edinburgh and London Royal Mail (1838) by John Frederick Herring

In Jane Austen's day, one could travel only six to eight miles per hour depending on the quality of the roads. Distances of 60 miles, an hour's trip by car today, took seven to ten hours, sometimes requiring an overnight stay to rest the horses. Compared to our global world today, life in Regency England was smaller and more insular. 

Catherine Golden
18 Jul 1817

Death of Jane Austen in Winchester

8 College Street, Winchester

8 College Street, Winchester, The Victorian Web, photo by Jacqueline Bannerjee.

Jane Austen grew ill in 2017, and she and her sister Cassandra went to stay in Winchester in this house on 8 College Street.  Jane could be attended by a physician named Mr. Lyford of the County Hospital, Winchester, who had treated her previously. She died there on July 18, 1817 and was buried in nearby Winchester Cathedral.  The home has a plaque that reads, "In this house Jane Austen lived her last days and died 18th July 2017."

Catherine Golden
5 Dec 1830 to 29 Dec 1894

Christina Rossetti

Portrait of Christina Rossetti by D.G. Rossetti, 1866
•Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830– 29 December 1894) was an English writer of Romantic and Victorian devotional and children's poems.  She is best known for Goblin Market (1862).
Catherine Golden
The end of the month Autumn 1849 to The end of the month Autumn 1849

Death of Edgar Allan Poe

On September 28 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died. The circumstances around his death remain a mystery to this day. One notable theory is that he was a victim of "cooping", a method of voter fraud that involved a victim being kidnapped, drugged, and disguised several times in order to cast many votes. Some people suggest that he died of alcohol poisoning, or that he even contracted rabies. Poe is famous for his horror tales, and many early critics of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wall-Paper" (1892) view it as a Poe-esque horror story. 

See the source image

“The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe's Death (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 24 Feb. 2021,

Alex Read
3 Jul 1860 to 17 Aug 1935

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ca. 1900, by C. F. Lummis, Wikipedia
Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. Her father, Frederick Beecher Perkins, was nephew of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catharine Beecher and grandson of evangelist Lyman Beecher, whose American roots could be traced back to 1637. Frederick Perkins divorced her mother, Mary Westcott, and Gilman and her one surviving brother were poor relations, moving frequently. Known as a writer and lecturer, Gilman, enormously proud of her Beecher blood, began her public career as a poet; her satirical verse withinIn This Our World (1893) enjoyed a near cult following among socialists in the United States and England.  However, her treatise Women and Economics (1898) established Gilman's international reputation as a feminist social critic even though she repudiated the term when it came in use in 1891. Today we know her best as the author of "The Yellow Wall-Paper" (1892). 
Catherine Golden

Publication of Goblin Market with illustrations by Christina's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Christina Rossetti is best known today for her long narrative poem "Goblin Market," published in 1862 with two illustrations by her artist brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  The illustration above shows the sisters together after Laura has been tempted, and the frontispiece shows Laura gorging on forbidden fruits with Lizzie looking back at her but walking away from temptation.  The poem has been illustrated variously as a children's tale and as an erotic work, but the first illustrations grew out of the original collaboration from the Rossetti siblings. 

Catherine Golden
circa. 1892 to circa. 1899

Publication of "The Yellow Wall-Paper"


Cover of the 1899 edition of "The Yellow Wall-Paper"

From its first publication in the January 1892 issue of New England Magazine until the early 1970s, "The Yellow Wall-Paper" was viewed variously as a story in the genre of Poe, a ghost story, and as an attack on gender relations. "The Yellow Wall-Paper" now finds its place in the nineteenth-century American literature canon, hailed in the feminist canon, and reprinted in major anthologies.  Gilman tells the story of a woman who very much wants to write; denied opportunities for self expression, she is tempted to read the patterns on the ubiquitous yellow wallpaper on the room of her nursery/prison where she is forced to undergo a rest cure. Critics variously call her psychic journey in the story a victory, a defeat, and a qualified victory. 

Catherine Golden
4 Jun 1919 to 18 Aug 1920

1920: 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote

 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote

Copy of 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, National Archives

The 19th Amendment, which Congress passed on June 4, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920--guarantees that all women in America have the right to vote. This was a major milestone in liberty and equal rights. The Suggrage movement, which began in the later decades of the nineteenth century, led to lectures, marches, protests, agitation, and more. Sadly, few of the early supporters of the movement were alive in 1920 when their dream became reality. Not surprisingly, Gilman was a major proponent of women's rights, and her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction treatises helped to advance this cause. 



Catherine Golden
circa. 1960 to circa. 1970

William Blake's Influence on Music/Culture in the 1960s and 1970s

William Blake's resistance to the status quo, manifested within his imaginative and evocative imagery, went unappreciated in his time, but the social and cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s turned to William Blake. For example, in 1967, the rock band the Doors released the song called "End of the Night" where the singer Morrison sang lyrics directly pulled from Blake's "Auguries of Innocence." Morrison mirrored the religious imagery that Blake drew on. Besides the Doors, Blake's art and perspectives inspired Bob Dylan. Although not explicitly referencing Blake, other metal bands, such as Black Sabbath, reflect the sociopolitical turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s as activism groups advocated for civil, queer, and womens' rights in the wake of the Vietnam War. The themes of governmental oppression witnessed within Blake's work also reverberate in the music of the 1960s-1970s with both music and Blake demanding resistance to the systems in place.


The Doors, 1966, from The Doors, 1966, from

Kimberly Pienkawa