|Module Title||SPENCER & MILTON: NARRATIVE HIST. & LIT. IN ENGLISH RENAISSA|
|Co-ordinator||To Be Arranged|
|Semester||Available semesters 1 and 2|
|Other staff||Professor Andrew Hadfield|
|Course delivery||Seminar||2 hours per week|
|Assessment||Essay||1 x 5,000 word essay|
This module seeks to introduce students with some familiarity with English Renaissance Literature to the literary and political writings of both authors and to look at the relationship between both writers: Milton acknowledged Spenser as his precursor, but resisted his influence in abadoning early plans to write an epic on the subject of King Arthur - as Spenser had done - in favour of a Biblical one. The aim will be to read substantial passages together so that the ways in which kinds of narrative work can be appreciated, especially the relationship between literary and non-literary texts. How closely must we relate Spenser's poetry to the events of Ireland in the last decades of Elizabeth's reign? Can we only read Milton's poetry in terms of the English Civil War? Both sought to be actively involved in politics and wrote substantial treatises about matters of state. These will be read in terms of their poetic work in order to consider such questions. We will try to determine what effect genre has upon the content of writing or whether content can be extracted from form without violently rupturing sense.
Other topics covered will include: sexual and political equality; the politics of genre and verse form: the development of English Protestant literature; literature and national identity; epic and allegory.
1. Protestantism and Allegory
"The Faerie Queene", Books, 1.6.7. How does the allegorical narrative of "The Faerie Queene" work? Are the oppositions
between truth and falsehood announced at the start of the text sustainable throughout? Is Spenser in control of his work, and, if
not, are his Protestant poetics undermined?
2. Iconociasm and Sexuality
"The Faerie Queene", Books 2 and 3. The concept of aesthetic enjoyment was often a problem for Protestants, particularly as
it related to sexual expression. Could earthly delights be consumed without guilt, or did virtue consist solely in obeying God's
commandments? We shall explore Spenser's responses to such questions in his poetic narrative.
3. Spenser and Ireland
"The Faerie Queene", Book 5: "A View of the Present State of Ireland". Spenser spent the last twenty years of his life as a
colonial official in Ireland and published virtually all of his major work whilst he was here. By reading his unpublished prose tract
on Ireland against his explicit allegorisation of Elizabethan politics in his epic poem, we shall explore the relationship between
the two and ask whether it is possible to read "The Faerie Queene" without an awareness of its Irish context.
4. Liberty and Libertarianism
"Comus and Aereopagitica". Companion seminar to 2. How does Milton deal with the question of earthly liberty and the use of
pagan learning? Are his answers different to Spenser's? A possible response to his predecessor?
5. Narrating the Fall
"Paradise Lost". Milton's epic, like Spenser's, a revolutionary work in both form and content, is a massive expansion of the first
few verses of "Genesis". We will explore Milton's possible motives for undertaking his bold and innovative project and look at
his respresentation of men, women, angels and Gods. Is there an inherent clash between the rigid hierarchies of God's universe
and Milton's democratic learnings? Was Milton really of the devil's party as Blake claimed?
Edmund Spenser, "Poetical Works" (Oxford). Or editions of "The Faerie Queens" (Penguin, Longman).
"A View of the Present State of Ireland" (xerox). John Milton, "Paradise Lose" (Longman); "Comus" (Oxford UP); "Selected Prose" (Penguin).