COURSE AIMS AND EXPECTATIONS
Age of Shakespeare” is a foundational course that explores
the life and times that shaped the greatest writer in
English and provided a cultural basis for all subsequent
literature in English. The non-dramatic work of
Shakespeare’s contemporaries and immediate predecessors will
be studied in order to discover how the language and ideas
of the modern age took shape. The poetry of Wyatt, Surrey,
Marlowe, Sidney, and Spenser will provide a background for
our reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets on love, friendship,
and mortality. We will explore how the modern idea of the
self first came into being as a result of new ways of
expressing feelings about relationships, marriage, ambition,
and individual fulfillment. This course supplies the
essential context for understanding the language and the
literature that produced the King James translation of the
Bible and the plays of Shakespeare.
Participation and attendance
(20%). Students are expected to attend every class and
actively contribute to discussion. There are no unexcused
absences, and the instructor should be notified in advance
if an absence is unavoidable. Leave a message on voice mail
or let me know through email should you need to miss a
Class contribution takes several forms. Students may ask
questions at any point during a class; students and teacher
may engage in question-and-answer sessions; the class as a
whole may engage in open discussion, sharing ideas and
attempting as a group to deepen our understanding of the
material. Students should work at participating effectively
in all these formats. I encourage students to present
different points of view, to share their opinions, and to
back them up.
From time to time, there will be specific class assignments
on the material we’ll be reading, These may include daily
vocabulary lists, oral presentations relating to scholarly
articles, chapters in books, etc.
(80%). Several critical papers will be assigned on themes
and topics to be discussed; one of these papers (the final
project) will be between eight and ten pages and will
involve scholarly research using at least two off-line
secondary critical sources. The final paper may be based on
the oral presentation (see above). The due date of the final
paper will be Thursday May 1, 2008, at 5 p.m. This paper may
be submitted earlier, at the student’s option.
paper in which I specify research, the format of the first
sample student paper in
Little, Brown Handbook
in the chapter entitled “Two Research Papers in the MLA
Style,” is to be followed; bibliographic and “Works Cited”
formats are to be found in the chapter entitled “Using MLA
Documentation and Format.” Any paper that has not been
spell-checked or does not follow the assigned formats will
receive an automatic “F.” All corrections and editorial
changes indicated by the instructor must be made before the
next paper is submitted and checked by the instructor,
otherwise the grade on the following paper will be "F." As
above, no exceptions
paper is submitted, it must be accompanied in a plain tab
folder by previous papers. All papers are due at the start
of class from the author on the specified due date; papers
not handed in on time will be penalized no less than one
letter grade per day. Please note: all previous written work
submitted for a grade, including extra-credit work, must
accompany the final paper in the folder at the end of the
The grading system.
Grades on the papers (and in the course) will not
necessarily be averaged; much weight will be given to
improvement. Each student's written and class work will be
assessed on an individual basis, with emphasis on
consistency and the ability to achieve higher standards as
the course proceeds. I call this method of grading the
“outcome basis.” It gives each student a chance to have his
or her learning over the course of the term count for more
at the end. In my opinion, this is a more accurate measure
of learning in a literature course than the averaging basis.
I believe, in addition, that this approach allows each
individual student to make the strongest possible case for
an “A” by offering opportunities to do extra-credit work,
which could consist of response papers to poetry readings,
short essays on subjects of a student’s choosing that relate
to issues raised in the course, outside reading, etc.
other hand, if you wish to have your grades averaged, you
may select that option. This must be done at the start of
the semester and cannot subsequently be changed. The
averaging basis weighs all work numerically. It tells you
where you are, but does not, in my opinion, reflect your
true learning curve, as the “outcome basis’ does.
it is course policy that all assigned work be completed in
order for a student to pass this course.
Further note: An optional final exam is available for those
who select it. In my opinion, only those students who feel
they are between grades should select this option. The grade
on this exam will be used to determine which of two grades
(higher or lower) the student will receive.
These will be arranged as needed. I am available to see you
on a flexible basis and not necessarily during fixed office
hours. Let me know in advance, and we can arrange
Students with learning disabilities that might affect
grading in this course are advised to notify the instructor
at the start of the semester.
COURSE TOPICS SCHEDULE
note that the following is an ideal sequence of topics
rather than a schedule. Because of the discussion nature of
the course, the sequence may require modification as we go
1. Life in
Elizabethan England. Social conditions. Education. Work.
Home life. City, country, and court.
Skelton [readings in text]. The English language at the
start of the 16th century. Mixing the sacred and the
profane. Skelton's sense of his native literary tradition.
The search for a voice. Satire.
and Surrey [readings in text]. New forms and ideas.
Influence of Petrarch. Courtly refinement. The new personal
voice. Surrey and the epic voice.
and Hoby [readings in text plus handout of passages from
Hamlet]. Humanist education. Importance of the classics.
Preparation for service and action. The well-rounded
[readings in text]. His theory of poetry. The sonnet
sequence: drama and lyric combined. Inner conflict and
doubt. The birth of the modern personality.
[sels. from Amoretti]. The Spenserian sonnet. The
courtly voice. Conventional themes and clever twists.
Allegory, symbolism, and realism. ["Epithalamion" and "Prothalamion,"
plus T.S. Eliot handout]. Visions of concord. Ritual and
order. Later influence. ["Two Cantos of Mutabilitie"]. The
philosophic question. Allegory and pageant. The visual
Ralegh, and Campion [readings in text--poetry selections
only]. Satire and lyric. A sampling of Elizabethan voices.
8. Bacon [sels.
from Essays]. Probative and magisterial styles. The
essay-form. Observation, learning, and induction.
[selections in text]. Blank verse. Pastoral irony.
Shakespeare [readings in text]. The sonnet sequence and the
inner life. Shakespeare's modernity. Groupings and
ambiguities. The long poems. Conclusion.
[readings in text] Neo-classicism. Art and nature. Elegy and
ode. Voice and trope.
legacy of the Elizabethan age. The beginnings of modern
individualism and the divided self. The observed world vs.
the courtly world. Science and poetry.