This course will introduce you to some of the most exciting and vital issues and texts-- historical, cultural and literary-- of Renaissance England. We will read a variety of men and women who take us into pre-modern worlds that are significantly different from our own, and yet help us understand our own modernity. Hence the readings will range from Shakespeare's plays or Donne's poems to a speech by Queen Elizabeth's or Columbus's letter of 'discovery'. We will try to understand the fashioning of various identities --such as those of gentleman, lady, monarch or subject --at this time. We will trace the changing meanings of gender, the family, love, authority, the nation and race. And most importantly, we will see how literary texts contribute to these meanings in their own distinctive ways.