English R1A

Reading and Composition: Temptation and Desire in Renaissance Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2014 Villagrana, José
MW 4-5:30 222 Wheeler

Book List

Marlowe, Christopher: Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays; Milton, John: The Major Works; Spenser, Edmund: The Faerie Queene: Book One

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be published on bCourses.


The great English epics and dramas of the Early Modern period can’t do without temptation. Why not? What makes temptation such a generative concept? Can we define it? Is temptation just an excuse to blame devils, monsters, or women for one’s own shortcomings? Does temptation elucidate virtue? In this class we will interrogate decidedly difficult and weird pieces of literature, closely analyzing how the rhetoric of temptation and desire works and fails on various fictive characters and, indeed, on the reader. We will look at how these texts respond to—and complicate—religious and cultural notions of good and evil, hope and despair, and, perhaps, life and death.

The purpose of this course is to improve your critical reading and writing skills in a way that is helpful regardless of your major. In-class participation will play an important role in developing your critical thinking skills, and we will discuss approaches to crafting mature prose that is argumentative, clear, and nuanced. You will write and revise four short essays during the course of the term.

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