Fall 2018 Undergraduate English Courses: Renaissance

358:434 Seminar: Spenser and Early Modern Fiction

01  TTH6  CAC  17286  MILLER, J.  MU-107

Edmund Spenser is one of the most engaging and most versatile writers of the English Renaissance.  His works have elicited widely different responses: Milton called him "our sage and serious poet"; Yeats referred to him as "a poet of the delighted senses"; Virginia Woolf advised readers to "make a dash for The Faerie Queene and give yourself up to it"; some readers consider him the father of modern fantasy literature.  We will explore the imaginative world of Faery-land Spenser creates in his great romance-epic (populated by fearless knights and noble savages; heroic cross-dressed female warriors and dangerously seductive women; book-vomiting monsters and democratic giants) in relation to the world he inhabits; we will consider his complex representations of power and gender in their literary and cultural contexts; throughout we will enjoy the experience of reading Spenser closely and attentively.  Early in his career, Spenser introduced himself as England’s “new poet” who would eventually write for England a national epic; that epic would, he later explained, through a “delightful and pleasing” fiction, make his readers virtuous.  Throughout his career, however, Spenser simultaneously subjects virtue, his readers, and his own intentions to intense scrutiny, questioning both the function of fiction and the possibilities of moral action in a complex, fallen world.  In this course, students will participate in that inquiry.

NOTE:   Prior familiarity with Spenser is NOT required or assumed for this course.  

Attendance:  Regular attendance required

Means of evaluation: papers; no exams