ENGL 8200: York to Tudor

English Literature 1460-1530

Course Description:

Falling between the death of John Lydgate and the rise of reformation polemic, the period 1460-1530 has been treated as a no-man’s land in England’s literary history; C. S. Lewis influentially characterized it as a “Drab Age” that is neither medieval nor yet early modern. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Witnessing the advent of print, the institutionalization of the poet laureate, the centralization of political and cultural forms, and the rise of innovative poetic forms (Skeltonics, anyone?), these years embrace a multifaceted profusion of literary productions alongside an understanding of poetry as an effective tool for political and ethical change. This concept of copia will govern the first two-thirds of the course, designed to provide an exploratory literary/historical/cultural overview of the age. We’ll read poetry written at the center of the kingdom, the Tudor court, as well as that written on the kingdom’s margins; laureate verse produced by aspirational poets well as liminary verse produced by printers; literature written explicitly for print and literature written never to be printed; verse designed to shape political opinion and verse written for private religious meditation. Underpinning this copia of material will be a copia of theoretical approaches, as we explore how New Historicist, cultural materialist, and New Formalist interpretive practices unpack different facets of these texts. The final third of the course will center around particular writers, events, or themes -- chosen by you, the students, for more detailed study and discussion.

For this course to work, I must make a few presumptions: first, that you have had courses in Chaucer and Shakespeare at the undergraduate (or higher) level; second, that you come to this class with some basic research skills (i.e., familiarity with the UGA library catalogue and the MLA bibliography); third, that you’re eager to apply yourself, within and outside the classroom, to the literature and to the writing assignments. If you come to the course with prior work in either Middle English or the sixteenth century, please bring that knowledge into the classroom to enrich everyone’s learning experience. I will do my best to provide you with student-friendly editions of the poetry and prose we’ll be reading; in some instances, however, you will be asked to read the literature in earlier editions and/or the original (often blackletter) imprints. Expect to participate energetically in class discussion, to lead that discussion on occasion, and to produce short weekly writes. Also expect not only to write a seminar paper, but to complete an array of associated preparatory assignments designed to help you become better researchers and writers.

Book List

  • Cathy Shrank and Mike Pincombe, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature. 2012.
  • Askew, Anne. The Examinations of Anne Askew. Ed. Elaine V. Beilin. 1996.
  • Recommended: Rosemary O'Day, The Routledge Companion to the Tudor Age. 2010. [Not required, but a nice handbook to have nearby to help with terms, names, dates, governmental organization, and the like.]

Note that these are NOT in the bookstore. You will need Shrank and Pincombe for the second week of class. Most of our reading will be done online or via PDF; please budget for printing costs.


Semesters taught: