This class will concentrate on two forms of first-person writing discovered in the Renaissance: the sonnet and the essay. The two forms could hardly be more different: the one limited to fourteen metered and rhymed lines and the other open-ended, the one expressive and bound to convention and the other meditative and free to experiment. Yet an emphatic “I” issues from both types of writing. We will alternate between these two verse and prose forms, examining their different formal and stylistic features on topics they both address: writing, death, immortality, futurity, the senses, language, desire and above all, the self.
We will read sonnets by Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and Lady Mary Wroth, epigrams by Ben Jonson, and essays by Montaigne and Bacon.
Requirements: routine class assignments and three papers.