Students will become familiar with the poetry, prose, and drama of the English medieval and early modern periods, which occurred roughly between the years 500-1650CE. We will break this large period down into its four constituent phases of English literary history: the Anglo-Saxon period, the High Middle Ages or Anglo-Norman period, the Late Middle Ages, and the English Renaissance or early modern period. Together, we will read works from the major literary movements, genres, and authors in each of these four periods.
Our reading will situate our selected texts in their historical contexts, although our discussions will not be limited by only historical questions. The readings selected converge around issues of sovereignty, the individual, the body politic and the political assemblage, group experience, and nation building, and this course will provide students with an appreciation and understanding of how these periods imagined the individual and the group at different scales of experience, through different modes of interaction, and through changing historical trends in literary representation. Accordingly, throughout the quarter, we will consider how these texts engage with their historical contexts and with our own contemporary concerns, paying particular attention to issues of the individual, the Other, group experience, attachment and detachment, and their ties to nation building. Likewise, we will explore and develop our own attachments to history and think about how contemporary desires and anxieties shape historical narratives--both in the past and today.
Course requirements: weekly forum posts, close reading paper, term paper, and final exam.
- Selections from Marie de France's Lais
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls
- Second Shepherd's Play
- Thomas More's Utopia
- Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta
- Sonnets by Thomas Wyatt, Edmund Spenser, Phillip Sydney, Mary Wroth, and William Shakespeare
- Metaphysical and devotional poetry by Mary Sydney, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, and George Herbert
- Ballads on the execution of Charles I