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ENGL202: Cultural and Literary Expression in the English Renaissance

Unit 1: Cultural and Historical Contexts   Let’s begin this course by taking stock of the various cultural and historical developments that would shape and give rise to the literature of the English Renaissance.  The period saw a number of dramatic changes in politics (a number of chaotic transformations in monarchic governance took place), religion (the Protestant Church split with the Catholic faith), world power (England expanded its power in the New World), and culture (the Italian Renaissance arrived!).  We will learn about each of these developments in detail, relating them to one another and imagining the influence that these changes would have on conceptualizations of the self and the world.

1.1 The Renaissance   1.1.1 Defining the Renaissance   - Reading: The Open University’s “Looking at the Renaissance – Defining the Renaissance” Link: The Open University’s “Looking at the Renaissance – Defining the Renaissance”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please read this brief overview for a general understanding of what the Renaissance was all about and how contemporary scholars are reinterpreting its origins and cultural legacy.
 
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  • Reading: CUNY-Brooklyn: Professor Lilia Melani’s “General Characteristics of the Renaissance” Link:  Lilia Melani’s “General Characteristics of the Renaissance”(HTML) adapted from A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature.
     
    Instructions:  Read this selection from the text used by students in Brooklyn College’s English Department for an expansive overview of the significant trends that defined Renaissance thinking.
     
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1.1.2 A Return to Classical Traditions   - Reading: Palo Alto College-Palo Alto: Professor Michael S. Seiferth’s “Classical Influences On the Renaissance” Link: Palo Alto College-Palo Alto: Professor Michael S. Seiferth’s “Classical Influences On The Renaissance” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Disregard the two brief introductory paragraphs. Read the first six paragraphs of these lecture notes from Palo Alto College Professor Michael S. Seiferth concerning the influence of classical works upon the Renaissance in general and the work of Plato and Aristotle upon the literature of the English Renaissance specifically.
 
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  • Reading: The Library of Congress’ “Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture” exhibition: “Humanism” Link:  The Library of Congress’ “Rome Reborn:  The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture” exhibition:  “Humanism”(HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Read the introduction and all four sections (“Seeking the Wisdom of the Ancients,” “Scholarship Challenges Tradition,” “Linguistic Correctness,” and “Confronting the Original Texts”) to this superb collection of Renaissance printing from the Vatican’s library.  As you read, click on the images for a closer look at books and printed materials in the collection.

1.1.3 Italian Influences   - Reading: from Peter Borghesi’s “Petrarch and His Influence on English Literature” Link:  Archive.org’s version of Peter Borghesi’s “Petrarch and His Influence on English Literature”(PDF)
Also available on Google Books
 
Instructions:  Read pages 23-28 (through the first full paragraph) of Italian author Borghesi’s 1906 work for a lively discussion of the manner in which Italian culture and literature made its mark on English writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer and led to the English Renaissance.
 
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1.1.4 Humanism and Utopianism   - Reading: Nicolaa de Bracton’s “Humanism: An Introduction” Link:  Nicolaa de Bracton’s “Humanism: An Introduction”(HTML)
 
Instructions: “Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton” is the nom de plume of Susan Carroll-Clarke, a medievalist and essayist whose writing here provides a clear understanding of the essential concepts related to humanism.

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  • Reading: American Public University: Steven Kreis’ “The Medieval Synthesis and the Discovery of Man: The Renaissance” followed by “Renaissance Humanism” by the same author Links:  American Public University:  Professor Steven Kreis’ “The Medieval Synthesis and the Discovery of Man:  The Renaissance”(HTML) and “Renaissance Humanism”(HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire text of this excellent parsing of Humanism during the Renaissance from American Public University Professor Steven Kreis, an early pioneer in using online resources to benefit college students.

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  • Reading: Illinois State University-Normal “From the Organic Society to Utopian Civic Virtue: Reforming the Poor and Re-Forming the Social Order in England, 1500-1550”(HTML)
     
    Instructions:  For an analysis of the role English Renaissance Utopianism played in creating the modern understanding of the poor and disenfranchised, read Chapter III “A Utopian World of Virtue: Society Reconfigured, the Poor Reformed” from Professor Beier’s scholarly essay.
     
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1.1.5 A Spirit of Inquiry   - Lecture: U.C.L.A.-Los Angeles: Professor Eugen Weber “The Renaissance and the Age of Discovery” Lecture from The Western Tradition series produced by Annenberg Media. Link:  Professor Eugen Weber’s “The Renaissance and the Age of Discovery”(Requires Flash) from The Western Tradition series of lectures
 
Instructions:  Scroll down to lecture #25, “The Renaissance and the Age of Discovery” and click on the “VoD” link to watch celebrated Professor Eugen Weber’s 27:32 minute lecture that offers a captivating and well-rounded overview of the spirit of inquiry that suffused the Renaissance.
 
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1.1.6 The Advent of the Printing Press and Literacy   - Reading: Merry Wiesner-Hanks’ “The World of the Renaissance Print Shop” Link:  University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:  Professor Merry Wiesner-Hanks’ “The World of the Renaissance Print Shop”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Read this excellent lecture on printing and the Renaissance by Distinguished Professor of History Merry Wiesner-Hanks which covers everything from the wine-presses which were adapted to make early printing machines to the popular, often salacious, content which the public demanded thereby influencing the history of Western culture.
 
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  • Web Media: Dailymotion: “The Machine That Made Us” hosted by Stephen Fry Link: Dailymotion: “The Machine That Made Us” - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (Flash)
     
    Instructions:  Watch all three parts of this fascinating, hour-long documentary hosted by respected technology writer Stephen Fry who travels to France and Germany to explore the origins of printing and the amazing life story of Johannes Gutenberg. Further, Mr. Fry and his team attempt to build a Guttenberg press from scratch as well as paper using period technology.  
     
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  • Web Media: Alternate Video: “1455: Printing Press” by the Christian Heritage Museum http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-BEI\_4D7tQ

1.1.7 The Prestige of Latin Versus Pride in the Vernacular   - Reading: The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume III. Renascence [sic] and Reformation. Chapter XX. The Language from Chaucer to Shakespeare. Section 3. “Growing importance of the vernacular.” Link:  Bartleby.com’s version of The Cambridge History of English and American Literature’s “Growing Importance of the Vernacular”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Read this scholarly assessment of the transition from Latin to the vernacular in England during the Renaissance taken from the 18 volume work that came out between 1907 and 1921 and redefined the study of English and American literature.
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1.2 The Reformation and Religious Issues   1.2.1 John Wycliffe and Other Early Challenges to the Church’s Power   - Reading: Thomas E. Martin, Jr.’s “John Wycliffe” Link:  Britannia Biographies’ “John Wycliffe”(HTML) by Thomas E. Martin, Jr.
 
Instructions:  Read this concise biography of an early English dissenter to find out why his bones were dug up, burned and scattered on water.
 
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  • Reading: Jeff Hobbs’ “The History of Lollardy” Link:  Britannia History’s “The History of Lollardy”(HTML) by Jeff Hobbs
     
    Instructions:  Read this excellent summary of the activities of the followers of John Wycliffe and how their actions set the stage for the Protestant Reformation in England.
     
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1.2.2 Martin Luther and the 95 Theses   - Reading: Greatsite.com’s “Martin Luther” Link:  Greatsite.com’s “Martin Luther”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Given Martin Luther’s role in shaping Christianity it’s only appropriate that this superb biography should appear on one of the world’s foremost dealers of rare and antique Bibles. The biography should be read in its entirety.
 
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  • Web Media: Video: PBS Video’s “Martin Luther: The Reluctant Revolutionary” Link:  PBS Video’s “Martin Luther:  The Reluctant Revolutionary”(YouTube)
     
    Instructions:  Watch the 55 minute installment in PBS’ “Empires” series from 2003 for a somewhat dramatic but historically accurate and thoroughly entertaining discussion of Martin Luther’s world and the impact of his 95 theses.

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1.2.3 Henry VIII Becomes Head of the Church in England   - Reading: royal.gov.uk’s “Henry VIII” Link:  royal.gov.uk’s biographical entry for “Henry VIII (r.1509-1547)”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  What better place to learn about a British monarch than the “The Official Website of the British Monarchy”?  This overview of Henry VIII’s life and reign provides a solid foundation for understanding the tumultuous years of his rule.
 
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  • Reading: Theodore Harvey’s “Henry VII: A Machiavellian Musical Monarch” Link:  Theodore Harvey’s “Henry VII:  A Machiavellian Musical Monarch”(HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Read this opinion article by professional cellist and British royalty expert Theodore Harvey for an interesting study of Henry VIII’s participation in, and support of, the arts during his reign.
     
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1.2.4 Cultural and Social Impact of the Protestant Reformation   - Reading: The Norton Anthology of English Literature’s “Dissent, Doubt and Spiritual Violence on the Reformation: Overview” Link:  The Norton Anthology of English Literature’s “Dissent, Doubt and Spiritual Violence on the Reformation:  Overview”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Read this helpful overview of the Reformation from one of academia’s most trusted sources for top-notch scholarly work and anthologies of primary sources.
 
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1.3 Elizabethan England   1.3.1 Genealogy of the Monarchy   - Web Media: Chart: University of Tennessee-Martin: Professor Glenn Everett’s “Kings and Queens of England from 1485 to the Present” Link:  Professor Glenn Everett’s “Kings and Queens of England from 1485 to the Present”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Review Professor Everett’s helpful chart to better understand the monarchical relationships during the Renaissance.
 
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1.3.2 From Henry VIII to Elizabeth I: Major Differences and Developments   - Lecture: Yale University: Professor Keith Wrightson’s HIST 251: Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society Under the Tudors and Stuarts: “Lecture 7 - Late Medieval Religion and Its Critics” and “Lecture 8 - Reformation and Division, 1530-1558” Link: Yale University: Professor Keith Wrightson’s HIST 251: Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society Under the Tudors and Stuarts: “Lecture 7 - Late Medieval Religion and Its Critics” (YouTube) and “Lecture 8 - Reformation and Division, 1530-1558” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the two lectures for an overview of the religious and political changes that took place from the time of the reign of King Henry VIII to the reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. Should you wish to read the transcript of the lecture instead, those can be found here: Lecture 7 and Lecture 8.
 
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1.3.3 Queen Elizabeth—Life and Legacy   - Reading: Britroyals’ “Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603)” Link:  Britroyals’ “Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603)”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Review this helpful page of content for a biography, images, a timeline, quotations and even a sample of the Queen’s signature for your perusal.
 
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  • Reading: King’s College-Wilkes-Barre: Professor Karen Woods’ “Queen Elizabeth I of England”(HTML)

    Instructions:  As part of the Women’s History site maintained by Professor Brian V. Pavlac, this contribution by Professor Woods offers a brief but thoughtful overview of Elizabeth I’s reign as well as a helpful bibliography with notes.
     
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  • Reading: Andre Hurault-Sieur de Maisse’s “An Audience with Queen Elizabeth I, 1597” Link:  EyeWitness to History.com’s version of Andre Hurault-Sieur de Maisse’s “An Audience with Queen Elizabeth I, 1597”(HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Read this brief excerpt from the journal of the French Ambassador to Elizabeth’s court and the revealing commentary that accompanies it.
     
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1.3.4 Colonial Endeavors   - Reading: Harvard University-Cambridge: W.A. Neilson’s “The Elizabethan Adventurers” from Harvard Classics Vol. 51: Lectures on the Harvard Classics Link:  Bartleby.com’s version of W.A. Neilson’s “The Elizabethan Adventurers”(HTML)
Also available on Google Books
 
Instructions:  Read this fine summary of the English explorers with a brief foray into the origin of travel narratives from esteemed scholar Professor W.A. Neilson.
 
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1.3.5 The Rise of Nationalism   - Reading: Pete Grubbs’ “Loyalty as an Elizabethan Practice: Establishing the Queen’s Power” Link: Pete Grubbs’ “Loyalty as an Elizabethan Practice: Establishing the Queen’s Power” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this text.
 
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1.3.6 Court Culture   - Reading: crossref-it.info’s “Elizabethan Court Life” Link:  crossref-it.info’s “Elizabethan Court Life”(HTML)
 
Instructions:  Read this brief breakdown of the major aspects of life in Elizabeth’s court
 
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1.3.7 The Growth of the City and City Life   - Reading: Elizabethan.org’s version of “The City of London” excerpted from Anthony Burgess’ “Shakespeare” Link: “The City of London”(HTML) (excerpted from Anthony Burgess’ “Shakespeare”
 
Instructions:  Read this very brief but colorful summary of Elizabethan London by one of England’s most respected modern authors.
 
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  • Reading: University of Oklahoma-Norman: Professor Stephen M. Sutherland’s “Elizabethan London: A Study in Historical Geography” Link:  Professor Stephen M. Sutherland’s “Elizabethan London:  A Study in Historical Geography” (PDF)
     
    Instructions:  Under "Section F, Geography" please find the last item; follow this link to open a PDF version of Professor Sutherland’s wonderfully lucid and detailed overview of London during the Elizabethan era.
     
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