Topics in Spenser and Milton
Instructors: Michael Ryan and Daniel Traister
Offices and office hours: Both instructors have offices on the sixth
floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library and are usually in.
Thursdays, 4:30 -
Lea Library, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library
Ryan: 215 898
Traister: 215 898 7089
This class will read two long poems: Edmund Spenser's The Faerie
Queene and John Milton's Paradise Lost. We are interested in
how these poems relate to broad traditions of epic (and numerous other
literary forms, as well), how they relate to one another, and how they
work as long poems. We are interested as well in how they relate to the
history and thought of the times in which they were written, and how they
can continue to be read and enjoyed in our own very different time. The
course will require a willingness to read a great deal of poetry and to
speak about it in class. Some additional secondary works will also be
assigned. The class will require two longish papers. Students should also
expect exercises in oral interpretation of these texts (that is, reading
them aloud publicly).
- Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. Thomas P. Roche
(Penguin 1979) 0140422072
- Elizabeth Heale, The Faerie Queene: A Reader's Guide, 2nd
ed. (Cambridge UP, 1999) 0521654688
- The Riverside Milton, ed. Roy Flannagan (Houghton Mifflin
- Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (Bantam Classics
- Virgil, The Aeneid, trans
Robert Fitzgerald (Vintage 1990) 0679729526
Reading the Aeneid in the early days of this class, if at all
possible, will be extremely helpful for seeing how Spenser and Milton use
-- both by adopting and changing -- epic conventions. Both of the
translations above read well in English. Somewhat nicer than Bantam's
mass-market paperback of Mandelbaum's Virgil is California's a trade
paperback edition, adorned by Barry Moser's illustrations. Everyman
publishes a relatively inexpensive hardcover edition of Fitzgerald's
Serious readers with a lot of time on their hands may also want
to read some of the following works. NOTE: This list involves a
great deal of reading! No one expects you to do all of it.
Doing even any of it may prove daunting. This list is here for
no other reason than if pleasure, inclination, and time lead you to try
anything on it.
- Homer, The Iliad -- many translations; try Robert
Fitzgerald's (Farrar Straus & Giroux)
- Homer, The Odyssey -- many translations; try Robert
- Ovid, Metamorphoses -- many translations; try Allen
Mandelbaum's (Harcourt), Rolfe Humphries's (Indiana U.P.), or A. D.
Melville's (Oxford World's Classics)
- Dante, The Divine Comedy -- many translations; try Charles
Singleton's (Princeton) or Allen Mandelbaum's (Knopf)
- Luigi Pulci, Morgante: The Epic Adventures of Orlando and His
Giant Friend Morgante -- trans. Joseph Tusiani (Indiana University
- Matteo Boiardo, Orlando Inamorata -- trans. Charles S. Ross
(Oxford World's Classics)
- Lodovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso -- trans. Guido Waldman
(Oxford's World's Classics)
A brilliant Renaissance translation
(poetry) by Sir John Harington also exists (ed. Robert McNulty, Oxford
University Press, 1972 -- o.p.). William Stewart Rose's nineteenth-century
translation (poetry) was edited by Stewart A. Baker and A. Bartlett
Giamatti (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968 -- o.p.). NOTE:
Along with Virgil's Aeneid, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso is
the work to read if you think you can read more than one.
- Torquato Tasso, Jerusalem Delivered -- trans. by Anthony
Esolen (Johns Hopkins U.P.)
In the seventeenth century, Edward Fairfax
translated Tasso as Godfrey of Bulloigne, ed. Kathleen M. Lea and
T. M. Gang (Oxford U.P., 1981 -- o.p.). His translation is occasionally
findable as a Centaur Classics hardcover or as a Capricorn paperback (with
different editors than Oxford's).
- Marco Girolamo Vida, The Christiad -- trans. Gertrude C.
Drake and Clarence A. Forbes (Carbondale: Southern Illinois U.P., 1978)
- If you are curious to see what a contemporary English-language epic
looks like -- one that Milton is known to have read -- see William
D'Avenant's Gondibert (ed. David Gladish, Oxford U.P.) Some shorter
Elizabeth epics are anthologized in Elizabethan Minor Epics (ed.
Elizabeth Story Donno, New York: Columbia U.P., and London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1963). For the later period, several shorter epics can be
found in the three volumes of Minor Poets of the Caroline Period
(ed. George Saintsbury, 3 vols., Oxford U.P., 1905).
- Last, if your knowledge of Christianity leaves something to be
desired, you might wish to read, in the New Testament, (A) one, two,
three, or four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), (B) Paul's
Epistle to the Romans (a text deeply influential upon Protestant Reformers
and hence influential too upon both Spenser and Milton), and (C)
Revelation. These will prove, if not necessarily salvific, at least
illuminating. The better you know both the Old and New Testaments the more
you are likely to see parallels in both of the works we read this
semester. With reference to Paradise Lost, for example, Genesis 1-3
(the first book of the Old Testament, and, after all, not a very long
patch of it) might also prove useful.
Reserve books are shelved in Van Pelt's Rosengarten Library (basement
level) and can be retrieved through the Reserve Desk.
- The Spenser Encyclopedia, general editor A. C. Hamilton --
and, for historical Background:
- Derek Hirst, Authority and Conflict: England 1603-1658 --
- Mark Kishlansky, A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714
-- DA375.K57 1996
- Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Later Reformation in England
1547-1603 -- BR375.M288 1990
- Alan G. R. Smith, The Emergence of a Nation State: The
Commonwealth of England 1529-1660 -- DA315.S64 1997
- The single best resource for the language of both poems is
the Oxford English
Dictionary: USE IT!
- The Edmund Spenser
Home Page (now at Cambridge University)
texts (from Richard Bear's home page); see also Selected
Poetry of Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) (from the University of Toronto)
- The Milton-L Home
texts (from Richard Bear's home page); see also The Works of
Milton (from Luminarium; with some facsimiles); and -- again from the
University of Toronto -- Selected
Poetry of John Milton (1608-1674); from Dartmouth, see the texts
(with some bibliographical information about current criticism) made
available at Thomas Luxon's Milton Reading Room
- In general, the best source of online information about any figure
in English literature is Voice of the
Shuttle (Alan Liu, UC-SB)
articles about Spenser (from Luminarium); some
articles about Milton (from Luminarium) -- but far better is to use
the Penn Library's own English
literature journals site
SCHEDULE OF CLASSES:
- Week 1
Introduction: overview of course;
Spenser; history; allegory, epic, medieval romance,
- "Allegory," "Epic," "Medieval
romance," "Pastoral," and "Spenserian stanza," from The New Princeton
Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. Alex Preminger and T. V. F.
Brogan, et al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
- Bernard F. Huppé, "Poetic Theory in the De doctrina
christiana," Doctrine and Poetry: Augustine's Influence on Old
English Poetry (Albany: State University of New York, 1959), pp.
- Bernard F. Huppé and D. W. Robertson, Jr., "An Approach to
Medieval Poetry," Fruyt and Chaf: Studies in Chaucer's Allegories
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), pp. 3-31
Rambuss, "Introduction," Spenser's Secret Career (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 1-4
- Week 2
the Letter to Raleigh; FQ 1:
- fol. 25, from the Trés riche
heures de Jean de France, pl. 89 in D. W. Robertson, Jr., A Preface
to Chaucer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962)
- "The Fair
Melusine and Medieval Legend," fig. 50 in Witchcraft in Europe,
1100-1700: A Documentary History, ed. Alan C. Kors and Edward Peters
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972)
- Julius S. Held,
"The 'Polish' Rider,"
Rembrandt Studies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991),
pp. 59-98 [+ plates 1-24]
- Rogier van der Weyden,
Saint George and the Dragon (ca. 1432/1435), oil on
panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington
- ["The adder,"] from William
Harrison, "Description of England," in The . . . chronicles of England,
Scotlande, and Irelande . . . faithfully gathered and set forth by
Raphaell Holinshed (London: Imprinted for I. Hunne, ), I, fol.
- D. W. Robertson, Jr., "The Doctrine of Charity in Mediaeval
Literary Gardens: A Topical Approach Through Symbolism and Allegory,"
Speculum, 26:1 (January 1951), 24-49
- Louis Adrian Montrose,
"'Shaping Fantasies': Figurations of Gender and Power in Elizabethan
Culture," Representations, no. 2 (Spring 1983), pp. 61-94
- "The peoples of the world paying homage
to the Four Cardinal Virtues [Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and
Justice] enthroned," from Jean Mansel, "La fleur des histoires"
[manuscript in Latin; French Flanders (Valenciennes, possibly Amiens),
ca. 1450-1460], fol. 592-recto [Lawrence J. Schoenberg MS
- "In occasionem" [Occasion"], from Andrea Alciati, Francisci
Sanctii Brocensis . . . Comment. in And. Alciati Emblemata . . .
(Lyon: Guliel[mus] Rovillius, 1573), sig. Z4-recto [here is a version of
"In Occasionem" from the
edition mounted by faculty at the Memorial University of
- Merritt Y. Hughes, "Spenser's Acrasia and the Circe of
the Renaissance," JHI, 4:4 (October 1943), 381-399
- Paul Alpers,
"Narration in The Faerie Queene, ELH, 44:1 (Spring 1977),
- Melinda J. Gough, "'Her filthy feature open showne' in Ariosto,
Spenser, and Much Ado About Nothing," SEL, 39:1 (Winter
- Elizabeth A. Spiller, "Poetic Parthenogensis and Spenser's
Idea of Creation in The Faerie Queene," SEL, 40:1 (Winter
- Robert Kellogg and Oliver Steele,
"Introduction," Edmund Spenser, Books I and II of The Faerie
Queene, The Mutability Cantos, and Selections from the Minor Poetry
(New York: Odyssey Press, 1965), pp. 1-73
- A. S. P. Woodhouse, "Nature
and Grace in The Faerie Queene," ELH, 16:3 (September 1949),
- Stephen Greenblatt, "Murdering Peasants: Status, Genre, and the
Representation of Rebellion," Representations, no. 1 (February
1983), pp. 1-29
- On the concept of "magnanimity,"
important for how we think about Arthur's role in FQ, see Kenneth Rexroth.
- For examples of
self-consciously symmetrical poetic form, in Spenser and some of his
contemporaries, see some exemplary poems and
- Millar Maclure, "Nature and Art in The
Faerie Queene," ELH, 28:1 (March 1961), 1-20
- A. Bartlett
Giamatti, "Spenser," The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. 232-294
- Daniel M.
Murtaugh, "The Garden and the Sea: The Topography of The Faerie
Queene, III," ELH, 40:3 (Autumn 1973), 325-338
Barkan, "Introduction," "Natural Philosophy: The Human Body and the
Cosmos," Nature's Work of Art: The Human Body as Image of the World
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), pp. 1-60
- Bruce Thomas
Boehrer, "'Carelesse Modestee': Chastity as Politics in Book 3 of The
Faerie Queene," ELH, 55:3 (Autumn 1988), 555-573
1 March -- CANCELLED (SNOW); CLASS AND PAPER RESCHEDULED
FQ 3: 7-12
assignment:What resources would you choose for teaching and studying
FQ, Books 3-4, 5, OR 6? How would you go about locating and
evaluating these? -- Note that this paper asks you to think about
both process and results. 3-5 pages; absolute
maximum of 1000 words.
8 March -- CLASS AND PAPER RESCHEDULED 22 MARCH
Paper 1 due today. Suggested length: 5-10
characters often occur in "clusters" or "groups": several nominally
"different" characters all of whom illuminate various aspects o associated
virtues or ills. Such "clusters" might include, e.g.,
Britomart, Belphoebe -- all of whom seem to reflect various aspects of
Queen Elizabeth (or, dare one say it, several of whom Elizabeth seems a
- Red Cross, Guyon, Arthur -- variably
representative of the major qualities with which "magnificence" seems to
- Florimell and Marinell;
- Amoret and
- Duessa, Malecasta, Acrasia;
- Duessa and Archimago
Consider one group -- either one of those
mentioned above or one you yourself define. Why might Spenser want to
display virtues -- or ills -- through more than one "character"? (On the
other hand, why ought he not to have done this?) Are the reasons
you can determine -- positive or negative -- primarily "moral" or
"didactic"? or does his use of such clusters have any literary impact,
and, if so, how might that be defined?
This is a complicated question.
Say less rather than more: find one group and one argument and stay with
them. Don't digress; don't try to say everything about even one group, let
alone a bit about many of them. You will need to buttress your points
FROM THE TEXT: be specific.
We are concerned with how you argue;
how you write; and how you READ Spenser's text, how you pick and use the
evidence you bring to bear in this essay.
15 March -- NO CLASS / SPRING VACATION
Week 10 -- CLASS RESCHEDULED 27 MARCH
FQ 6; "Mutabilitie Cantos"
Dryden, The State of Innocence, and Fall of Man. An Opera (1674),
in The Works of John Dryden (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1994), 12:80-146
- Peter Paul
Rubens, "Fall of the Rebel Angels" (1618-1620). Oil on canvas. Alte
Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Graduate student assignment:
What resources would you choose for teaching and studying the construction
of Eve, Satan, OR Eden in PL? How would you go about
locating and evaluating these? -- Note that this paper asks you to think
about both process and results. 3-5 pages;
absolute maximum of 1000 words.
26 April -- LAST CLASS
Your final paper (topic to be chosen in
consultation with the instructors) is due Wednesday, May 9th.
Suggested length: approximately 10-15 pages.
assignment: Review a recent book that deals with both Spenser and
Milton (you will have several from which to choose: ASK FIRST!). --
3-5 pages; absolute maximum of 1000 words.
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