English | Spenser and Milton
L622 | 24478 | Anderson
2:30p – 3:45p TR
Mainly, this will be a course on The Faerie Queene, Spenser's
culturally encyclopedic romance-epic, the major poem of the English
high Renaissance and the equivalent for poetry of what Shakespeare
is for the drama of the period. Where helpful, we also look at a
few of the shorter poems by Spenser that bear directly on The Faerie
Queene: for example, Spenser=s pastoral eclogues or sonnets. We=ll
also be considering ideas about metaphor and allegoryCthe latter
most simply defined in the Renaissance as continued metaphor.
Allegory is basic to all forms of representation in language, and it
conspicuously affects writers both earlier and later than Spenser,
including those of the nineteenth century (e.g., Dickens or
Hawthorne) or of the twentieth (e.g., Ionesco, Beckett). But I
still want to emphasize that, while various larger connections will
enrich our reading, the first responsibility of the course will be
to Spenser=s romance-epic, in itself both aesthetically and
culturally a complex and thoroughly engaging poem.
Work in the course will feature a presentation, a relatively short
exploratory essay, and an essay of conference length (8-10 pages).
The major text will be Spenser: The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C.
Hamilton, 2nd edition (Longman, 2001); discounted copies are likely
to be available on-line. The most useful reading beforehand would
involve broad cultural background: e.g., for pleasure and profit,
Frances A. Yates, Astrea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth
Century, Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, revised
edition; or Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth. If you prefer to
read theories of allegory, consider Carolynn Van Dyke=s Fiction of
Truth, introduction and Part I; Gordon Teskey=s Allegory and
Violence, or Mendele Ann Treip's Allegorical Poetics and Epic.