Literature in English: Through Milton
Cavendish, Margaret: The Blazing World; Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales; Marie de France: Lais; Milton, John: Paradise Lost; Spenser, Edmund: The Faerie Queene, Book Three; Webster, John: The Duchess of Malfi
Other Readings and Media
Some shorter texts (mostly texts written by Elizabeth and her male and female courtiers) will be distributed as .pdf.
English 45A introduces students to the foundations of literary writing in Britain, from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance and English Civil War. This semester I'd like to focus on how that foundational narrative--the story of how British authors claim authority-- is shot through by questions of gender. Is literary activity implicity, or explicitly, masculine? Is authority itself, in a patriarchal society, necessarily masculine? Do women who write count as authors? How do male writers engage the possibility of female authority?
We'll range in chronological sequence across our period, but at the center of our semester's study will be the figure of Elizabeth Tudor, for fifty years the sovereign Queen of the English patriarchy, adored and abhorred by her male subjects in equal measure (and often in the same breath). Spenser professed the representative system of his Elizabethan epic, The Faerie Queene, to offer "mirrors more than one" to contemplate his sovereign, and we will read our syllabus as likewise refracting the image of female authority into different shapes and scales.
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