Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

01  TTH4   CAC   16917   MILLER   MU-115

01 "Customing is an Idiot": Gendering the Renaissance

“Custom is an idiot” was the revolutionary declaration of the spokesperson for the cross-dressed woman in an early seventeenth-century pamphlet.  This course will explore how early modern customs and constructions of gender informed the writing of both men and the women whose voices were just beginning to emerge in force.  Throughout, we’ll be concerned with both literary and social conventions that writers rejected and embraced, revised and reinscribed.  The course will cover material from the long period traditionally called the Renaissance: from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth. We will frame the course with the rather astonishing materials that document the early modern formal debates about the “nature of womankind.”  We will then set together the work of men and women writers in a variety of genres: e.g., the Utopian fictions of Sir Thomas More and Margaret Cavendish, the drama of Shakespeare and Elizabeth Cary; the lyrics of Donne and Katherine Philips; and (selections from) the poetic and prose romances of Edmund Spenser and Mary Wroth.  The course will give students the opportunity to explore the extraordinarily diverse and rich literature of the Renaissance, to consider the contributions of women's voices to the literary and cultural landscape, and to discover the complex interactions that influenced the various early modern representations of the gendered self. 

Attendance: Regular attendance required

Means of evaluation:  short response papers and a longer final essay.


why english wide


 Undergraduate Students


Graduate Program in English


Statue of "Willie the Silent"