Professor Stephen Bluestone
Office: 110B Ware Hall | Telephone: 478-301-4010 | email:
Office Hours: 9:30-10:40 a.m. (T/Th) and by appointment
FYS 101 Fall 2009
English 237 Fall 2009
English 333 Fall 2009
FYS 102 Spring 2009
English 235 Spring 2009
English 382 Spring 2009
FYS 101 Fall 2008
English 237 Fall 2008
English 332 Fall 2008
FYS 102  Spring 2008
English 235 Spring 2008
English 340 Spring 2008
This page is designed to be printed 
English 340
Sixtenth Century English Literature
  • Renaissance England (ed. Lamson and Smith) [an alternative title is The Golden Hind]

  • The Little, Brown Handbook (any recent edition will do)



The 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.

1. 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.

(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.

(b) 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.

2. Written work (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.

In any paper in which I specify research, the format of the first sample student paper in The 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

When a 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 course.

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.

On the 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.

Note: 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.

Conferences. 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 appointments.

Special circumstances. Students with learning disabilities that might affect grading in this course are advised to notify the instructor at the start of the semester.


Please 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 along.

1. Life in Elizabethan England. Social conditions. Education. Work. Home life. City, country, and court.

2. John 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.

3. Wyatt and Surrey [readings in text]. New forms and ideas. Influence of Petrarch. Courtly refinement. The new personal voice. Surrey and the epic voice.

4. Ascham 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 individual. Neoplatonism.

5. Sidney [readings in text]. His theory of poetry. The sonnet sequence: drama and lyric combined. Inner conflict and doubt. The birth of the modern personality.

6. Spenser [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 imagination.

7. Nashe, 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.

9. Marlowe [selections in text]. Blank verse. Pastoral irony.

10. Shakespeare [readings in text]. The sonnet sequence and the inner life. Shakespeare's modernity. Groupings and ambiguities. The long poems. Conclusion.

11. Jonson [readings in text] Neo-classicism. Art and nature. Elegy and ode. Voice and trope.

12. The legacy of the Elizabethan age. The beginnings of modern individualism and the divided self. The observed world vs. the courtly world. Science and poetry.


It goes without saying that the Mercer Honor Code is in effect at all times in this course.