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The Familiarity of Renaissance Literature

ENGL 029.401
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

This course takes Seneca's De beneficiis, Cicero's De amicitia, and Aristotle's Ethics as its point of departure, and considers the impact of ancient friendship theory on the Renaissance discourse of literary tradition. Working our way from Petrarch's Letters to Dead Authors to Swift's Battle of the Books, we'll examine the pre-history of the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns on the eve of the Enlightenment. In particular, I would like to challenge the assumption that Harold Bloom's celebrated agonistic model of literary influence is historically appropriate to the Renaissance, or to any period before Romanticism. In addition to the texts that I have already mentioned, readings for the course will also include: Tacitus's Dialogue on Orators; the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius; Marlowe's Hero and Leander and Chapman's; Spenser's Shepheardes Calender and Faerie Queene; his published correspondence with Gabriel Harvey; Shakespeare's Sonnets; elegies produced by Spenser and others for Philip Sidney, and by the Tribe of Ben for Ben Jonson; Drayton's Poly-Olbion and Selden's annotations; Donne's Metympsychosis; Milton's Lycidas; essays on friendship by Montaigne and Bacon; Meric Casaubon's General Learning; Dryden's Fables; and other texts pertaining directly to the Quarrel of Ancients and Moderns, like Temple's Essay and Wotton's Reflections.