ENG 313: Sixteenth-Century British Literature


Dr. Rankin 3 credits

          This course offers a detailed overview of the principal writers in England during the sixteenth-century, including Foxe, Marlowe, More, Nashe, Sidney, Skelton, Spenser, and a number of others. In investigating the relevance of their works to modern readers, we will ask challenging questions that concern, among other topics, problems related to canon formation and periodization. This period has been variously termed “Renaissance” and “early modern,” and in recent years, “Tudor literature” has come into its own as a distinct category by which we might productively assess the creative output of our writers.
          We will take up the question of how period labels shape our reading practices and prompt us to make literary judgments that may or may not represent the ways in which contemporaries understood either literary production or its reception. We will ask whether the designation “Renaissance literature” is even productive, since it implies a “rebirth” that has traditionally been associated, as far as England is concerned, with the extraordinary writing of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, and their late-sixteenth and early seventeenth-century contemporaries. After all, recent critical studies indicate numerous criteria by which the works of the period may be read, including but not limited to aesthetic experience. Such studies include investigations into the poetry and politics of the English Reformation; the literature of the nation; issues concerning literary patronage, literature and rhetoric; the uses of and responses to the classical and medieval traditions; humanism and satire; literature and the printing press; manuscript studies; and more. How do such questions invite reinvestigation of writers (such as Spenser or Shakespeare) who have long been centrally located in the canon, as well as more marginal figures (such as Skelton)? We will also investigate both royal verse and the earliest examples of prose fiction in the English tradition.
          English 313 satisfies the period category requirement for the English major (pre-fall 2011) and both the intermediate and overlay requirements (i.e., literature before 1700 or literature before 1900) for the English major (fall 2011 and after).

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