This course has multiple goals in surveying the landscape of medieval and Renaissance English culture. We will read poems, plays, and prose that have come down to us as the best work of their times (those productions of "major writers" ), including several of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Book 1 of Spenser's Faerie Queene, poems by Wyatt, Sidney, Wroth, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, and Marvell, Webster's Duchess of Malfi, and Milton's Paradise Lost. But we will also discuss how these works became "major," looking at them in the context of the outpouring of books in their own time of political, social, and religious upheaval. While we thus follow literary history of this period, we will study the methods of practicing that literary history. Students will be introduced to techniques of close reading and writing about literary texts and research. Assignment will include exercises in using the Oxford English Dictionary and on-line bibliographies, literary analysis, and the preparation of your own "commonplace book," as well as a final research paper.