English 253H: Prof. Michael Ullyot (who?)

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English 253H: The Age of Elizabeth
Archived July 2005

Trent University

Department of English, Fall 2004
Professor: Michael Ullyot
Office: Durham College C108
Office hours: Thurs 5:30 - 6:20

Course Description and Goals

Why do we read poetry? This question preoccupied poets and readers in sixteenth-century England, and recurs in the texts we will consider in English 253H. We begin with Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesy, which describes reading as "this purifying of wit, this enriching of memory, enabling of judgement, and enlarging of conceit." The ensuing texts help us to realize these aims by exploring issues like poetry's artificiality and its longevity; its memorial and didactic (educational) functions; and its proper subjects, genres, and authors. Though poetry influences every reader differently, we will draw commonalities from our mutual readings and discussions to measure Sidney's words against our own experiences.

We will read these texts, from Surrey's Aeneid to Wroth's Urania, in relation to one another, and situate them in their literary and historical contexts. By the end of English 253H, you will be familiar with the history of English literature in the Renaissance (and beyond); you will be more capable of critiquing the canonical status of literary texts, and of assessing literature's relevance to cultural history and to modern culture. You will also develop techniques for reading and annotating literary texts, and for writing critically about your perceptions of the issues informing them. The readings in this course will "enrich your memory," in Sidney's terms, while your responses to them in class and in written assignments will "enable your judgement."

Both texts are available in the Durham College bookstore.

Required Texts

  1. Renaissance Literature: An Anthology. Ed. Payne and Hunter.
  2. Christopher Marlowe. Edward II. Ed. Wiggins and Lindsey.

Course and Assignment Format

Classes will consist of an hour of lecture and an hour of tutorial each week, beginning on 23 September. (The first class, on 16 September, will run for the full three hours.) The lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. You will be assigned one of the two tutorial timeslots, at 6:30 and at 8:30 p.m.

Tutorials give you the opportunity to explore your own responses to the week's reading, and those of your fellow students. Each week, you will be responsible for a discussion question and a passage from that week's reading. I will assign these passages and questions in advance, and post them to this web site. In each tutorial, three students will be asked to do one of the following tasks:

  1. Read the assigned passage aloud.
  2. Paraphrase the passage in your own words (five sentences or so).
  3. Respond to that week's discussion question.

You will not be told in advance who will be chosen to participate in this warm-up exercise -- thus in each tutorial, you must be prepared to do any one of these tasks. Your substantial participation grade (30%) depends on your performances both in this exercise and in the tutorials as a whole, and on your regular attendance at lectures.

Response Papers will be 750-word responses to a question about Sidney's Defence of Poesy, due on 7 October at 7:30 p.m.

Research Papers will involve more sustained analysis (2500 words) of at least one text studied in class. They will also require you to research, quote, and cite three secondary sources. A point-form outline of this paper, with a provisional thesis statement, will be due on 25 November, two weeks before the final due date of 9 December; this outline will be weighed in the determination of your final mark.

Course Schedule (12 weeks)

16 Sept


The Age of Elizabeth

Critical Reading and Writing

Course Requirements and Policies

23 Sept

Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesy (P+H 501-27)

30 Sept

The Mirror for Magistrates

Thomas Sackville, "Induction," lines 1-175, 389-end (P+H 664-68, 672-75)

Thomas Churchyard, "Cardinal Wolsey" (P+H 675-85)

7 Oct


Christopher Marlowe, Edward II

14 Oct

Christopher Marlowe, Edward II

21 Oct

Edmund Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender

"Aprill" (including E.K.'s "Glosse") (P+H 199-206)

Songs from Englands Helicon

"The Unknowne Sheepheards Complaint" (P+H 1084)

"Another of the Same Sheepheards" (P+H 1085)

"An Heroicall Poeme" (P+H 1093-95)

"The Heard-Mans Happie Life" (P+H 1097-98)

28 Oct

READING BREAK: Read The Faerie Queene

4 Nov

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

"A Letter of the Authors" (P+H 244-46)

Book II, "Proem," stanzas i-v (P+H 247-48)

Book II, Cantos 7-9 (P+H 304-41)

11 Nov

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

Book II, Canto 10, stanzas i-xiii and lxviii-lxxvii (P+H 342-44, 355-57)

Book II, Cantos 11-12 (P+H 357-84)

18 Nov

William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, lines 1-1015 (P+H 716-38)

25 Nov


William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, lines 1016-end (P+H 738-56)

Henry Howard (Earl of Surrey), The Aeneid

Book IV {The Suicide of Dido} (P+H 119-21)

2 Dec

John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (P+H 115)

Elizabeth I

"The Doubt of Future Foes" (P+H 144-45)

"On Monsieur's Departure" (P+H 145)

"Now Leave and Let Me Rest" (P+H 146)

"The Golden Speech" (P+H 150-51)

Mary Wroth, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania

{Pamphilia's Solitary Walks} (P+H 993-94)

{Pamphilia Gives her Poems to Amphilanthus} (P+H 1000-03)

9 Dec


Henry Howard (Earl of Surrey), "W. Resteth Here" (P+H 130-31)

Mary Sidney, "To the Angell Spirit of ... Sir Philip Sidney" (P+H 650-52)

Ben Jonson, "To the Memory of ... Mr. William Shakespeare" (P+H 893)

John Marston, "To Everlasting Oblivion" (P+H 964-65)

16 Dec



For help with your writing, see my guide to Effective Critical Writing.

  1. Response Paper (750 words); due 7 October (10%)
  2. Research Paper (2 500 words); due 9 December (30%)
  3. Participation. (30%)
  4. Final exam. (30%)

Course Policies and Academic Integrity

The Response and Research Papers are graded out of 100%. Late papers -- submitted after 7:30 p.m. on the due date - will be penalized at a rate of 5% daily for the first two days, and 1% daily thereafter, excluding weekends and university holidays. (For example, a paper due on Thursday the 9th that is submitted on Tuesday the 14th would be penalized 12%.)

The only legitimate excuse for late submissions will be documented medical emergencies -- as opposed to less drastic misfortunes like the deaths of family pets, beloved or otherwise. Technological problems like malfunctioning printers or e-mail servers are unfortunate but inevitable; you can prevent such last-minute problems from costing you marks by working long in advance of the due date.

Critical analysis often necessitates references to the writing, ideas, and data of other scholars, but it is intellectually dishonest to present that work as your own - without explicitly and clearly giving them credit and appropriate reference. Plagiarism is the deliberate or inadvertent presentation of someone else's work as your own. If you submit an assignment that includes material (even a very small amount) that you did not write, but that is presented as your own work, you are guilty of plagiarism. Your readers must know at every point whether they are reading your ideas, or someone else's. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, the following scenarios: using the work of someone else, from whatever source, without citation; recycling work from other university or high school courses; submitting the same paper in two different courses. Ignorance is not a defence: it is your responsibility to ensure that you understand and apply the citation rules outlined in the MLA Handbook.

The definition of plagiarism is simple, but its penalties are severe, as detailed in Trent University's guidelines: "Penalties may range from a reprimand to suspension from the University. Examples include the reduction of a mark on work submitted for evaluation, the requirement to submit another piece of work or to retake a test or examination, and a grade of '0 - Academic Dishonesty' on a student's transcript."


Assigned Passages and Discussion Questions:

16 Sept

Introduction: No tutorials this week

23 Sept

Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesy

Assigned Passage: P+H 505-06, from "These be subdivided..." to "...princes over all the rest."

Question: What is architectonike, and how does Sidney use it to define poetry's purpose?

30 Sept

The Mirror for Magistrates

Assigned Passage: "Induction," lines 508-35 (P+H 675)

Question: Why does Sorrow instruct the narrator to “recompt”(recount) these stories? How does this task explain the poem's title?

7 Oct

Christopher Marlowe, Edward II

Assigned Passage: Scene 4, lines 403-20 (Mortimer Junior: “Uncle, his wanton humour grieves not me...” in Wiggins + Lindsey pp. 37-38)

Question: Gaveston's dress and antics irritate Mortimer for reasons he does not state explicitly. What are those reasons?

14 Oct

Christopher Marlowe, Edward II

Assigned Passage: Scene 20, lines 5-83 (Edward: “Leicester, if gentle words might comfort me...” in Wiggins + Lindsey pp. 97-100)

Question: Does Edward lose his crown because of Mortimer's pride, or because of his own?

21 Oct

Spenser and pastoral poetry

Assigned Passage: Englands Helicon, "An Heroicall Poeme" (P+H 1093-95)

Question: What reasons does the poet give for shifting his poetic subject?

28 Oct


4 Nov

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

Assigned Passage: Book II, "Proem," stanzas i-v (P+H 247-48)

Question: Spenser uses prefatory material like this preface to Book II to describe his poetic methods and to voice concerns about the reception of his poetry. What is his concern in this passage? How does it relate to his purpose throughout the Faerie Queene "to fashion a gentleman or noble person" (p. 245)?

11 Nov

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

Assigned Passage: Book II, Canto XII, stanzas liii-lix (P+H 377-78)

Question: According to Spenser's Letter (P+H 245), Sir Guyon's characteristic virtue is temperance. But what does 'temperance' mean, based on this passage? Is it a mental attitude, an aesthetic model, a guide to conduct--or some combination of the three?

18 Nov

William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece

Assigned Passage: Lines 365-441 (P+H 724-26)

Question: In this passage, Shakespeare uses at least eight similes (metaphors beginning with "like" or "as") to describe Lucrece's beauty and Tarquin's assault. How do these similes refract your view of the poem's action and images?

25 Nov

Shakespeare and Surrey's Aeneid

Assigned Passages: Surrey, lines 92-105 (P+H 120); Shakespeare, lines 1156-1211 (P+H 741-42)

Question: Compare Dido's with Lucrece's motive(s) for suicide.

2 Dec

Knox, Elizabeth, and Wroth

Assigned Passage: Mary Wroth, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania, P+H 1001-02, from "Those hours I had alone..." to "...discover what befell me."

Question: How did the British lady jeopardize her love?

9 Dec

Elegies by Surrey, Sidney, Jonson, and Marston

REVIEW: No assigned passages or questions

16 Dec

FINAL EXAM: No tutorials

Response Paper

Due date: 7 October 2004, at 7:30 p.m.
Length: 750 words (approximately three paragraphs)

Consult my Essay Writing Guide for help with your writing.


Many times in the Defence of Poesy, Sidney cites Xenophon's Cyropaedia - a biography of the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great. (For details, see the Gazetteer, P+H 1120.) How does Sidney use Xenophon's example to define the characteristic functions of poetry, and what are those functions? How do the effects of this "absolute heroical poem" contrast with "the regular instruction of philosophy"?


  • Ensure that you use each of the four rhetorical modes discussed in class: analysis, description, paraphrase, and quotation.
  • The brevity of this paper requires that you do not devote undue words to lengthy introductions or conclusions: plunge directly into your argument, and write with economy and concision.
  • Support your argument with at least three quotations from the text, with parenthetical page-references: i.e. "quotation" (p. 504). Use quotations selectively and judiciously; they cannot "speak for themselves."
  • Use only the evidence of Sidney's text to make your argument; do not do external research.

Research Paper

Due date: 9 December 2004, at 7:30 p.m.
Length: 2 500 words

Consult my Essay Writing Guide for help with your writing, and for presentation guidelines.


Answer one of the following questions in an essay of 2500 words. Pay close attention to the choices of texts each question (except #2) offers.

Guidance Questions you should consider as you write your paper appear in this blue box below each question. You need not answer all of these questions, but you should consider them as you develop your argument.

  1. "Now, to that which commonly is attributed to the praise of history, in respect of the notable learning is got by marking the success, as though therein a man should see virtue exalted and vice punished -- truly that commendation is peculiar to poetry, and far off from history" (Sidney, Defence of Poesy, P+H 510). Discuss how poets and playwrights treat history as a source of "notable learning" in two of the following texts: Edward II, The Mirror for Magistrates, and The Faerie Queene. How are their genres -- tragedy, comedy, or romance -- affected by their didactic purposes? Are their characters aware of their future exemplary reputations?
  2. What lessons (for readers/audiences) do these authors want to impart? How do you define 'history'? How do these texts present "virtue exalted and vice punished"? How do their characters exhibit this awareness of the lessons they are teaching (and does it influence their conduct)? And are certain genres better designed for this exemplarity?

  3. The narrative digression or ekphrasis (pictorial description) either complements or distracts from its framing narrative. Discuss thematic continuities and narrative transitions between the following digressions and their framing texts: the fall of Troy in The Rape of Lucrece and in The Mirror for Magistrates (Induction); and the chronicle histories in The Faerie Queene (Book II, cantos 9 and 10). What purpose do they serve, and how are they integrated into these texts?
  4. What is ekphrasis? (Define with reference to secondary sources; start with a source like The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory; then consider James Hefferman's Museum of Words and Robillard & Jongeneel's essay collection, Pictures into Words). Are these ornamental or functional elements of their texts (or both)? How do ekphrases (plural) contribute to your understanding of these texts? What themes are common to both the digressions and their 'framing' texts?

  5. Human desires and ambitions can be either virtuous or vicious -- bringing about positive change, or provoking a range of social ills and individual misfortunes. When does ambition become lust? To what extent does this distinction depend on consequences, rather than intentions? Discuss with reference to three of the following figures: Mortimer in Edward II; Tarquin in The Rape of Lucrece; Mammon in The Faerie Queene; Wolsey in The Mirror for Magistrates.
  6. Define both lust and ambition, with reference to how they are presented in each text (i.e. not just as they are defined in dictionaries). Many motives will not fall neatly into one or another of these categories, but somewhere between them. Compare these examples to each other, and compare their consequences with their intentions, to broaden your definitions of the two categories.

  7. "So now fayre Rosalind hath bredde hys smart | So now his frend is chaunged for a frenne" (Spenser, "Aprill," ll. 27-28). How does heterosexual love affect men's conduct and homosocial bonds? Discuss male attitudes toward women and female beauty in two of the following instances: Isabella in Edward II; Acrasia in The Faerie Queene; the beloved women in the pastoral poems (both "Aprill" and Englands Helicon). What is the status of female perspectives in texts written by men?
  8. What is the relationship between beauty and virtue? How do women influence men's minds, conduct, and relationships with other men? Do men trust women? Why or why not? What characteristic features do they tend to assign to them? Offer as many examples as will convincingly make your case. Can women's perspectives be fairly represented in texts composed by a male author? Why or why not?

  9. "Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done; neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too much loved earth more lovely. Her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden" (Sidney, Defence of Poesy, P+H 504). Compare and contrast Spenser's treatments of the natural and artificial worlds in The Faerie Queene (in Book II, canto 12; and elsewhere) with their treatments in two of the following texts: Englands Helicon, The Mirror for Magistrates, and Wroth's Urania. How does the natural world reflect human experience, emotions, and desires?
  10. Sidney writes that poets take a 'brazen' (bronze) world and make it into gold. But can 'nature' in a poem ever truly be 'natural', or does it reflect the perspectives and priorities of the poet describing it? Are these poets aware of this artificiality? When Spenser mixes art with nature, what is he saying about their mutual depenence? Does this influence your readings of these other texts? How are their depictions of nature related to the mental states of their characters?


  • A point-form outline of this paper, with a provisional thesis statement, is due on 25 November, two weeks before the final due date of 9 December; this outline will be weighed in the determination of your final mark.
  • The outline should include:
    • The question you are answering;
    • The argument you are making;
    • The thesis (central point, in one sentence) you are proving; and
    • Any secondary sources you have found
  • This project requires both critical analysis and library research. Your paper must include citations (using MLA format) of three secondary sources; these may be some combination of scholarly books (monographs or collections of articles), print or electronic scholarly journals, or other sources approved by me. (Reference works are not included.)
  • When you are looking for these sources, a good place to begin is the MLA International Bibliography (available through the Trent University Library site).
  • Another effective way to find books and articles relevant to your topic is to begin with recent books on the subject, and combing through their footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies for titles related to your subject. Some will be irrelevant, inevitably, but others will add breadth and depth to your argument.
  • To find these books, search the library catalogue for books with “Spenser” in the title (for example), and arrange the results by date. Investigate recent publications before older ones, to get a sense of current thinking on the subject.
  • Look for scholarly books and articles that either support or oppose your argument. When Sidney wants to strengthen his argument at the end of his Defence of Poesy, he discusses arguments against poetry in order to dismantle them. This is an effective strategy for revealing that you (the writer) have considered and rejected opposing viewpoints.
  • What makes a good secondary source? Scholarly books, and articles in academic journals or edited collections, are all reliable places to find reflective analyses of English literature.
    • Online refereed journals like Early Modern Literary Studies are earning their scholarly credentials, but they are few and very far between.
    • Historical studies of English literature are certainly worthwhile -- but biographies or histories of religion, politics, or society should be avoided at this stage; they tend to distract from your primary focus.
  • Which sources are not worthwhile?
    • study guides;
    • reference books;
    • lecture notes;
    • most web sites (even academic sites like this one); and
    • popular books like Spenser for Dummies (if it existed!).
  • For a guide to libary research tools, see A Research Guide for Undergraduate Students: English and American Literature, ed. Baker and Huling (2001).
  • If you are in doubt about the validity of a source, consult me.

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