How do Chaucer's texts portray women? What did people do for fun in Shakespeare's day? How did Spenser and Milton think a poet should write? This course is a survey of the so-called "great" writers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but rather than generalizing about what makes these writers "great" (a very problematic designation), we will examine their texts in relation to the larger cultural framework in which they operated. To that end, we will look at both "literary" texts and other kinds of "non-literary" materials, such as anatomical treatises, legal documents, and engravings. Discussions will investigate such issues as the material production of texts, theatrical performance, gender and sexuality, conceptions of identity and theories of the body, religion, science, literary genres and traditions, and European imperialism and interracial encounters. In addition to written work, active class participation and at least one oral presentation will be required.