E301 16448 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH TO 1600
2:30p-3:45p TR (70 students) 3 cr. A&H.
Open to majors and declared minors only.
TOPIC: “The Archaeology of Early English Tests”
"Archaeology" is meant here in its broadest sense. Although the primary focus of the course will be on the close reading of English texts from the beginning to the time of Shakespeare, we will continually attempt to place these texts in their cultural contexts, recovering the material conditions under which they were produced and received in the Anglo-Saxon, late medieval, and early modern periods. We will, for example, study the Elizabethan book trade to understand the milieu in which works like the poems of Wyatt and Surrey, Marlowe's Hero and Leander, and Shakespeare's sonnets reached the reading public. We will see how the late medieval explosion of book production and the invention of the printing press molded the development of canonical forms of literature, language, and religious and political belief. We will learn how the concurrent rise of the Gothic style in art and architecture and of more natural, less stylized literary forms both express a profound cultural shift related to the rise of affective lay piety. And we will learn something about monastic life in order to understand how modern conceptions of literacy as print-based, of literature as high art, and of authors as independent agents of inspiration warp our understanding of the intentions of those who recorded such works as Beowulf and The Wanderer in the Old English period. In the process we will examine some of these works in their manuscript contexts and learn how to decipher varieties of Tudor and medieval handwriting. We will be "archaeologists," then, in the sense that we will attempt to reconstruct literate cultures from their disparate remains and make sense of early English texts in the context of what we learn about the uses of literacy in early times. In fine, we will learn to do the work of professional scholars in these periods--the kinds of work that make medieval and Renaissance studies both different and fun.
The texts to be studied will include all or parts of Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Julian of Norwich's Showings, The Book of Margery Kempe, Spenser's Faerie Queene, the Wakefield Secunda pastorum, perhaps a Marlowe drama, and lyrics by Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney, Marlowe, and Shakespeare.