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Renaissance Gothic

ENGL 531.401
T 3-6:00

There is no question that the distinguishing feature of the Renaissance in England, as in Italy, was the feature for which it was named: its interest in the revival of antiquity. As many have noted, the project of classical revival was vexed from the start: a good millennium stood between the modern and the ancient; what survived the duration was in fragments and in ruins. But England, located on the outermost verge of the Empire, had a singularly fraught relation to the classical past, particularly after the Reformation. Once Protestant England broke from Catholic Rome, how could it return to the authority of Rome for its heritage? How could ancient Rome be extricated from the popish Babylon of modern Rome?

This seminar will explore various responses to this dilemma. In an age that invested authority in antiquity, what were the alternatives to classicism? Where outside the classical tradition could antiquity be located? Our exploration will be conducted under the auspices of the term Gothic to suggest -- not (certainly not!) some early version of the Middle Ages – but rather those barbaric hordes that destroyed Roman civilization. In other words, the Gothic will serve as a rubric under which to examine various strains and stances resistant to classicism, among them, the primitive, the savage, the barbarous, the uncouth, the rustic, the effeminate, the Asiatic, and, in time -- mannerism.

It is our contention that this peculiarly English Renaissance anti-classicism (or posture of anti-classicism) has slipped through the periodizing cracks. In attempt to recuperate other notions of antiquity in sixteenth-century England, we will be looking at a wide array of cultural forms and practices: typography, architecture, versification, philology, historiography, ethnography, law, antiquarianism, and last but in no way least, "literature." We will be reading works by Spenser, Lyly, Puttenham, Ascham, Sidney, Shakespeare, Milton, Campion/Daniel, Florio's Montaigne, Jonson, and others.

Fulfills X & X requirements.