The Politics of Love and Religion in Renaissance England
When Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself Supreme Head of the English Church in 1534, he asserted the identity of religious duty and political loyalty. As the next hundred and fifty years of English history show us, however, the link between spiritual and secular obligation that Tudor and Stuart monarchs employed to consolidate royal authority could just as easily foment rebellion against it. This course will consider the ways in which the period’s poetry participates in interrelated debates over theology, church doctrine, sovereignty, law, gender, and private conscience, most prominently through its focus on love as both basis of and metaphor for the individual’s relation with divine and secular authority. Reading will focus on two long poems, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (Books I and V) and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, along with some shorter work by Thomas Wyatt, Anne Askew, Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, John Donne, Amelia Lanyer, Mary Wroth, George Herbert, and Andrew Marvell. A series of short writing and research assignments will culminate in a final 10+ page research paper.