English 5002 Studies in English Renaissance Literature: Shaping the English Renaissance
Section 001 CRN 95789
Studies in English Renaissance Literature: Shaping the English Renaissance 1530-1800 W
How English is the English Renaissance, anyway? And why do so many Shakespearean characters speak their pithy Elizabethan English lines in Italian settings while pretending to be Italian? In this course, we will explore how English Renaissance literature is actually in large part a product of Continental courtly and popular cultures adapted to suit English tastes, as well as English political and religious concerns. We will read key texts of the English Renaissance by such writers as Wyatt, Surrey, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Wroth, alongside a selection of powerfully iconic Continental texts whose influence helped to shape these English works. We will begin, for example, with poems by Petrarch, then look at a selection of poetry by Sidney, Shakespeare, Wroth, and others to explore English Petrarchism. We will discuss Machiavelli’s Prince and Castiglione’s Courtier alongside speeches and other communications by Queen Elizabeth, as well as Shakespeare’s Henry V. We will look at excerpts from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and descriptions of the Ballet comique de la Royne in tandem with excerpts from Sidney’s and Wroth’s romances, as well as some of Jonson’s court masques. Finally, we will explore Renaissance comedy as we discuss aspects of Italian commedia and performance practices that influenced such plays as Much Ado about Nothing and The Merchant of Venice. While on that subject, we will also see what English critics such as Thomas Nashe and John Lyly had to say about Continental influences upon the English stage, as well as upon courtly manners and mores. While one goal of the course is to broaden your understanding of what is and isn’t English about English Renaissance literature, another is to explore the ways in which aspects of Renaissance literature still inform our contemporary tastes.