E424 – English Renaissance

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Course Level:

Semesters Offered:

Prerequisite: E 276 or E 342 or E 343.

Description: English Renaissance Literature (1500-1670), covering a range of poetry, drama, and prose.

“We are all framed of flaps and patches,” says Michel de Montaigne in John Florio’s 1605 English translation of his essays, “and there is as much difference between us and ourselves, as there is between ourselves and others.” How did writers in this period strive to give shape to the “flaps and patches” of which Montaigne speaks? What historical conditions and literary traditions enabled or constrained their efforts? Why does “difference” play such a prominent role in his understanding of who “we” are? To explore these questions, this course offers an intensive survey of the English Renaissance by reading a range of poetry, drama, and prose from the period (roughly 1500-1660). We will study what is distinctive about some of the “major figures” of the period by considering their works as responses to the social, economic, and cultural situations out of which they emerged. We will attend to the roles these texts played in the debates and struggles of a period that witnessed rapid and radical cultural change. Moreover, we will redress the distortions of traditional conceptions of the Renaissance by studying writers and concerns that those traditional definitions excluded or neglected, particularly women writers and/or writers who were popular in their own time, but who have since been marginalized by the conventional canon.