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London in Literature in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

ENGL 221.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

In Saint Erkenwald, an ancient British pagan “king” comes back to life while a crowd of Londoners and their bishop gather in old St. Paul's Cathedral. In La Male Regle, Thomas Hoccleve describes his wasted youth in London's taverns and red-light districts. In Richard Maidstone's Concordia, the city of London is reunited with its King in a metaphorical marriage. In John Gower's Vox Clamantis, peasants imagined as a mob of rabid and wild animals rise against the authorities and attack the City. In a mock will, Isabella Whitney bequeaths her goods to the City that she must leave sadly leave behind. In Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, we are introduced to the annual event that overturns the hierarchies of London’s diverse peoples (gentlemen, judges, pickpockets, Puritans, widows, and fat ladies).

In this class, we will read medieval and early modern poems, histories, and plays that depict London. We will slowly become familiar with the many ways in which the City is being invented across genres. We will become familiar with the city's corporate structure, with the city's history, and with the literature that has always belied the idea of England as a pastoral paradise. Requirements include a midterm, a short paper, a longer research paper, and regular participation.