Faculty Course Description
ENG318W: Renaissance Literature
Dr. Mark Taylor
Office: Evans 231
Office phone: 238-5905
This course represents an in-depth study of a selection of major (i. e., influential) texts in English composed in the 16th and 17th centuries. The texts are basically presented in generic groups but we pay attention to chronology. The critical approaches are dominated by textual, inter-textual, and historicist theory.
Lyric Poetry includes Wyatt, Donne, the Metaphysical & Cavalier Poets, and Women Writers (Elizabeth I, Mary Sidney, etc.)
Sonnets of Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton
Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, books III– IV
Milton’s Paradise Lost (selections)
Students will be responsible for a number of writing assignments in which they are asked to tackle several different kinds of scholarship. Viz.:
Editing a Shakespeare Sonnet. Prepare a critical edition of one of the sonnets of Shakespeare from a list of choices. This assignment allows students to understand the nature of texts in a radically different way and to learn not to take modern editions for granted. Assignment consists of rationale, edited text, with notes and commentary.
Compose a Sonnet in a Traditional Form: One learns best by doing, we are given to understand. Thus a very good way to learn about sonnets is by composing an original sonnet of your own. In class we learn about them from the outside in, now learn from the inside out. This assignment has three parts: introduction, sonnet, and commentary
Essay on Epic: In this paper, students consider one or both of the epics we are reading with a critical perspective, choose a problematic aspect of these works, singly or together, and argue for either a specific solution or the need to understand the complexity of the problem.
Explication of a Lyric: Choose one of the Renaissance lyrics from the selected given to you, from the anonymous lyrics and ballads to Wyatt up through the metaphysical and cavalier poets. Your approach to writing about it should be based on Formalist or Structuralist close reading, but you can give it whatever slant you like.
Book Report: Students will read a selected work of contemporary and present respond to it both an in-class oral presentation and a written report.
Final Project—Open Topic: In this assignment, students display how well they can build upon all the things learned in the course of the semester from 1) earlier assignments: textual criticism, your critical approach to the epic, ability to elucidate subtle close readings of short passages; 2) criticism read, and research conducted; 3) nuts and bolts from philology, history, and culture addressed in class discussions; 4) the literary texts themselves. This project, which may be interdisciplinary or experimental in conception/presentation represents a kind of summa or final where students can bring together and display what they have learned and what they are capable of doing as readers and scholars.