St/16 & 17C Lit

Representations of War in the English Renaissance

In this course we will explore the historical, military, and ideological contexts of important texts that reflect directly, indirectly, or covertly the engagement of England in dynastic, national, religious, proto-colonial, civil, and proto-imperial wars between 1500 and the beginning of the eighteenth century.  We will consider how English Renaissance writers celebrate, question, or subvert England’s national martial narrative and how that narrative is channeled through the genres and literary figurations of works in which sixteenth and early seventeenth war is represented, misrepresented, or not presented at all.  Study of modern editions of the texts below will be supplemented by readings drawn from history and political philosophy as well as by examination of digital versions of original sixteenth and early seventeenth-century publications. Among issues to be examined are the formation of national identity; the formation of male identity; just war theory and practice; and the role of women in wars and war literature in the early modern period. 

This is a writing-intensive course that will feature extensive and intensive digital writing (laulima) as well as a major research paper incorporating literary texts; war-related historical background; and  consideration of political, ethical, and identity issues with the text(s) that you explore and illuminate.


Course Requirements

  • Attendance and participation
  • One 5-6 page analysis of a canonical work that draws out how war-related issues  have been drawn on by the author.
  • Bi-weekly posting of responses to questions posed by instructor and classmates
  • Portfolio of a limited number of your responses, revised  for final submission
  • An original research project, involving consultation of early English documents and contemporary literary and political/ethical criticism; draft and revision of a 10-12 page original essay documented according to MLA conventions; and peer review of a classmate’s draft project
  • Final, open book examination


Required Texts (available at UH Book Store)

  • Thomas More, Utopia
  • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Books 1 and 5
  • Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine Parts 1 and 2
  • William Shakespeare, Henry V
  • John Milton, selected prose and Paradise Lost
  • Selected English Civil War poetry (to be provided digitally in PDFs)
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
  • Selected war-related poetry of John Dryden (to be provided digitally in PDFs)