English [4--Y]: Prof. Michael Ullyot (who?)

English [4--Y]:
Seventeenth-Century Literature

This prospective full-year course has not yet been offered. As it is presently very reading-intensive, the syllabus could be thinned out somewhat.

Course Description and Goals

This course is designed to familiarize students with the modes and genres of seventeenth-century English literature, including lyrics, elegies, epics, essays, sermons, masques, pamphlets, travelogues, ballads, biographies and memoirs.

We will read the major and minor canons of texts by women as well as by men. We will focus on the philosophical, aesthetic, religious, sociological and political discussions in which literature figured. We will consider the cultural debates from which literature emerged, and to which it contributed: the aims and limits of human inquiry; the dynamic between imitation and innovation; the praise and subjugation of women. And we will consider the performance and circulation of texts: in speech, in manuscript and in print.


This course is intended for third- or fourth-year undergraduates. Survey courses in literary history and reading poetry would be valuable prerequisites.

Required Texts

  • The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose, Edited by Alan Rudrum, Joseph Black & Holly Faith Nelson

Other texts will be available online, or in a course reader.

Optional texts (excerpted in reader):

  • Brian Vickers, ed. English Renaissance Literary Criticism
  • David Norbrook, ed. Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse 1509-1659

Course Calendar (2 terms; 26 weeks)

Week 1


  • Course Goals and Format
  • English Literature in the Seventeenth Century
  • A reading, from John Chamberlain's Letter on the death of Queen Elizabeth


  • Francis Bacon, Essays: Of Truth, Of Studies
  • Fulke Greville, Caelica, sonnet 88 ('Man, dream no more of curious mysteries')

Week 2

  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (excerpts): Democritus Junior To the Reader; Love of Learning, or Overmuch Study
  • John Milton, Il Penseroso

Week 3

  • Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, The First Part (excerpts)
  • Natural Histories: Robert Hooke, Preface to Micrographia (excerpts); Images from Edward Topsell, History of Four-Footed Beasts; History of Serpents


"[I]f any should like the world I have made, and be willing to be my subjects, they may imagine themselves such, ... But if they cannot endure to be subjects, they may create worlds of their own, and govern themselves as they please." (Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World)

Week 4

  • John Chamberlain, Letters: The Death of Queen Elizabeth, The Marriage of Princess Elizabeth
  • Anne Clifford, The Knole Diary (1603-1619) (excerpts): 1603, 1616, 1617

Week 5

  • Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World (excerpts)
  • John Evelyn, Diary (excerpts: Great Fire of 1666)
  • Samuel Pepys, Diary (excerpts: Great Fire of 1666)

Week 6

  • Izaak Walton, The Life of Dr John Donne
  • John Aubrey, Brief Lives (excerpts): Walter Ralegh, William Harvey, John Milton


Week 7

  • Lady Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, sonnets 1, 8, 13, 16, 26, 39, 40, 79-81, 103
  • John Donne
    • Songs and Sonnets: The Good-Morrow; The Sun Rising; The Canonization; The Relic
    • Elegies: Elegy XVIII (Love's Progress); Elegy XIX (To His Mistress Going to Bed)

Week 8

  • Richard Lovelace, To Lucasta, Going Beyond the Seas; To Lucasta, Going to the Wars; To Lucasta, Ode Lyric
  • Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress
  • Thomas Carew, A Rapture
  • Robert Herrick, To the Virgins, To make much of Time; Delight in Disorder; Upon Julia's Clothes; The Night Piece, to Julia
  • Katherine Philips, An Answer to another persuading a Lady to Marriage


Week 9

  • King James I, A Speech to the Lords and Commons
  • Francis Bacon, Essays (excerpt): Of Masques and Triumphs
  • Anthony Munday, Triumphs of Reunited Britannia

Week 10

  • Ben Jonson, Speeches at Prince Henry's Barriers
  • Aurelian Townshend and Inigo Jones, Albion's Triumph

(or Court Politics and Civil War)

Week 11

  • Ben Jonson, On Something that Walks Somewhere
  • John Harington, Epigram IV.v: Of Treason
  • King Charles I, A Proclamation and Declaration to Inform Our Loving Subjects of Our Kingdom of England of the Seditious Practices of Some in Scotland (1639)
  • Andrew Marvell, An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland; The Second Chorus from Seneca's Tragedy Thyestes

Week 12

  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth (excerpts): The Introduction; Chapter XIII; Chapter XVII; A Review, and Conclusion

(or Pastoral and other Retreats)

Week 13

  • William Browne, Britannia's Pastorals (excerpts)
  • Aemilia Lanyer, The Description of Cooke-ham
  • Ben Jonson, To Penshurst
  • Thomas Carew, To Saxham
  • Henry Wotton, To J[ohn] D[onne] from Mr H[enry] W[otton]

Week 14

  • Francis Quarles, On the Plough-man
  • Robert Herrick, Corinna's Going A Maying; To Phillis to love, and live with him
  • Abraham Cowley, Of Solitude
  • Andrew Marvell, The Mower against Gardens; The Garden
  • John Milton, L'Allegro; Song on May Morning


Week 15

  • Francis Bacon, Essays (excerpt): Of Travel
  • Michael Drayton, To the Virginian Voyage
  • Andrew Marvell, Bermudas
  • Thomas Hariot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (excerpt): "Of the nature and manners of the people"
  • Englishmen in India: Excerpts from Thomas Coryate, Crudities; and Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage


Week 16

  • Plague Pamphlets: Excerpts from Thomas Dekker, The Wonderful Year and News from Graves-End
  • The Tobacco Debate: Excerpts from King James I, A Counterblaste to Tobacco; Anon., The Metamorphosis of Tobacco

Week 17

  • Broadside Ballads and Chapbooks: Representative ballads from 1640, 1641, 1649, 1650, and 1660 on Bodleian Library website: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads/


  • Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning (excerpts in Vickers): Imitatio and its excesses; Poetry, rhetoric, and the imagination

Week 18

  • Ben Jonson
    • Discoveries (excerpts in Brian Vickers, English Renaissance Literary Criticism)
    • To the Reader; An Ode. To Himself; An Epistle to Master John Selden; To the Memory of My Beloved, The Author, Mr. William Shakespeare; An Execration upon Vulcan
  • William Drummond
    • 'Conversations' with Ben Jonson (excerpts in Vickers)
    • 'I know that all beneath the moon decays'; 'That I so slenderly set forth my mind'; 'Sound hoarse, sad lute, true witness of my woe'; No Epitaph

Week 19

  • Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (excerpts): To All Virtuous Ladies in General, The Author's Dream to the Lady Mary (more in Week 24)
  • Rachel Speght, The Dream (excerpt in Norbrook)
  • Robert Herrick, The Argument of his Book; When he would have his verses read; To His Book
  • Margaret Cavendish, The Clasp
  • Henry Vaughan, The Book

Week 20

  • William Davenant, Preface to Gondibert (excerpts)
  • Thomas Hobbes, The Answer to Davenant's Preface Before Gondibert (excerpts)


  • George Chapman, Prefaces and dedications in translations of Homer (excerpts in Vickers): On translating and defending Homer
  • Robert Herrick, To Live Merrily, and to Trust to Good Verses

Week 21

  • John Milton, Paradise Lost, Books 1 and 2

Week 22

  • John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 9
  • Andrew Marvell, On Mr Milton's 'Paradise Lost'
  • John Dryden, Preface to Fables Ancient and Modern; The Speeches of Ajax and Ulysses (from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 13)


Week 23

  • Lancelot Andrewes, A Sermon Preached Before the King's Majesty at Whitehall (Christmas 1622)
  • John Donne
    • Holy Sonnets: I-VIII
    • Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (excerpts): IV. Expostulation; V. Meditation; XVII. Meditation; XXI. Meditation

Week 24

  • Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (excerpts in Norbrook; see also Week 19)
  • John Milton, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity; Prose excerpts in Vickers: The making of a Christian poet
  • George Herbert, The Temple: The Altar, Easter Wings, Prayer (I), The Windows
  • Richard Crashaw, A Hymn of the Nativity, sung by the Shepherds
  • Henry Vaughan, The World
  • Jeremy Taylor, Holy Dying (excerpts): Consideration of the Vanity and Shortness of Man's Life; Consideration of the Miseries of Man's Life


Week 25

  • Henry Chettle, Englands Mourning Garment: Worne here by plaine Shepheardes, in memorie of their sacred Mistresse, Elizabeth
  • John Donne, An Elegy upon the Untimely Death of the Incomparable Prince Henry
  • John Webster, A Monumental Columne, Erected to the living Memory of the ever-glorious Henry, late Prince of Wales
  • Ben Jonson, On My First Daughter; On My First Son
  • Fulke Greville, Caelica, sonnet 87: 'Whenas man's life, the light of human lust,'

Week 26

  • John Donne
    • Divine Meditations (excerpts): sonnets 1 ('Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?'); and 10 ('Death be not proud, though some have called thee')
    • A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
  • John Milton, Lycidas
  • Robert Ayton, On the Prince's Death, to the King
  • Henry King, An Exequy to his Matchless never to be forgotten Friend; Upon the Death of my ever Desired Friend Dr Donne Dean of Paul's
  • Thomas Carew, An Elegy Upon the Death of the Dean of Pauls, Dr. John Donne
  • Andrew Marvell, An Epitaph upon ---; The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn
  • Katherine Philips, Epitaph on her son H. P.; Orinda upon little Hector Philips


(Time Permitting)

"Poetry and pictures are arts of a like nature, and both are busy about imitation." (Ben Jonson, Discoveries)

  • George Wither, A Collection of Emblems (excerpts): I.xxxv (Planting); II.xxx (The Spade and the Wreath); II.vliv (The Husbandman); IV.xxxi (The Spade)
  • Francis Quarles, Emblems Divine and Moral (excerpts): I.xiv (Lighten mine eyes, O Lord); III.vii (Wherefore hidest thou thy face)

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