Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Renaissance Poetry

ENGL 231.301
TR 1:30-3

This seminar investigates the relationship between Renaissance poetry and the early printed book, asking to what extent the material format of a literary text contributes to its meaning. Working with texts that run from Tottel's Miscellany (1557), the first printed anthology of English lyrics, through John Milton's Poems (1645), we will consider a wide range of genres in the context of their material presentation: sonnet, elegy, pastoral, satire, ode, hymn and epic. We will also address a number of topics in the history of authorship. What is an author? Who enjoys authority over a text, and in what sense? What does anthologization do to a poem? When was English "literature" invented as a category of writing, by whom and why? What kind of knowledge is poetry, and what is it good for? In addition to readings from several major Tudor and Stuart writers-including Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne, George Herbert and John Milton-we will refer to a smattering of texts by minor Renaissance writers and also to essays by contemporary theorists, historians and literary critics.

This class offers an option for students especially interested in the application to humanities subjects of digital technologies. Projects that apply computerized or other technological and digital techniques to advance the study of any aspect of this course will be accepted in place of the final assignment and, if successfully completed, will give students credit towards the IT Certificate. Discuss your interest in this option with the instructors EARLY in the semester. Students who register with this option already in mind should register for section 302 of this class (though both sections will meet together).

Assignments for the seminar will be discussed in detail at the first meeting.