St/ 16 & 17C Lit (Renaissance Imperial Epic)

The great works
you will be reading in this course are impressive monuments of Western
culture.  They employ, and sometimes
question, an ideological demonology and proto-colonialist quest narrative that
we have come to inherit without being aware of it until events like 9/11 and
its aftermath jolt us into recognition. 
Therefore, although our primary focus will be literary features of
Renaissance epic, we will also be looking at the historical, political, and
cultural truths and distortions to which they respond and contribute.

We begin with a
complete reading of Vergil’s AENEID
(in John Dryden’s 17th-century translation), the Roman
national epic of historical tragedy and historical triumph and the most
influential work of Western literature, and proceed to look at significant
excerpts from subsequent works that deliberately supplement, transcend, or
quarrel with it:  Ariosto’s ORLANDO
FURIOSO (1532), Tasso’s JERUSALEM DELIVERED (1575), Camoens’s  THE LUSIADS (the national epic of
Portugal–1572), Spenser’s THE FAERIE QUEENE(1596), and Milton’s
PARADISE LOST(1667).  We will
come to intimately understand and appreciate epic literary conventions, but we
will also come to learn much about war, violent religious controversy, ethics,
politics, and even gender roles:  women,
while few in number, are immensely important in each of these works, usually as
threats to the imperial mission, but also as its catalyst, participant, or

You will be
writing a brief comparison paper on some feature of the AENEID that is
rewritten in a later epic; posting electronic responses and questions based on
the readings; and producing a final research paper on two of the Renaissance
epics or another work related to them. .



Assignments:  Attendance and participation (10%), Aeneid comparison paper (20%), Electronic
reponses (20%), Renaissance comparative paper (40%), Final exam (10%)