English | Literatures in English to 1600
E301 | 1881 | Fulk


7:15p-8:30p TR (30) 3 cr.

OPEN TO MAJORS ONLY. DECLARED MINORS OBTAIN
AUTHORIZATION FROM BH402.

The topic of this section will be "The Archaeology of Early
English Texts," and I mean "archaeology" 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
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,
perhaps a Marlowe drama, and poems by Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney,
Marlowe, and Shakespeare.