Literature and History (LSE, Pre-1700)

Sidney and Spenser

Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser are among the most important half dozen
English writers of the sixteenth century but were both intimately involved in
England’s world-wide conflict with Spain that began in 1585, Sidney as a
commanding officer killed in a cavalry charge in the Netherlands, Spenser as a
colonial official for Queen Elizabeth, burned out of his castle by an Irish
rebellion, who died in London in 1599 after bringing a report to the
government  This course will therefore
look at their major works from biographical, historical, and ideological
perspectives, as well as from literary and cultural ones.  The course will be divided into three
segments:  approximately 3 weeks setting
up the larger contexts and discussing critical essays on both writers’ earliest
works;  approximately 6 weeks dealing
with Sidney’s ARCADIA and ASTROPHIL AND STELLA and Spenser’s FAERIE QUEENE, and
approximately 6 weeks during which students will report on their research
projects and have drafts of their critiqued by me and by another


of you will be presenting a oral report on a critical article on ARCADIA,
A&S, or FQ; writing an annotated bibliography entry and critical analysis
and evaluation of that article; delivering an oral report on your research
project and an oral and written critique of another classmate’s research paper
draft; and finishing a substantial essay on your project, complete with
annotated bibliography of works used in your paper. All papers will make
minimal or more extended use of Early English Books Online, a digital library
resource that provides copies of books printed in England between 1473 and

Course objectives:

  1. Guiding you to
    analyze canonical 16th-century English literary works and writers from a
    variety of critical and historical perspectives.
  2. Enabling you to
    analyze and present your own reading of one text and one or more critical
    interpretations of that text from such a perspective in an oral
    representation and subsequent short paper (4–6 pages).
  3. Requiring you to devise a research question
    focused on one or more works of Sidney or Spenser and to develop that
    question into a substantial (15–20  page) draft paper.
  4. Asking you to present your research project
    in-class for feedback and commentary by other students and for written
    feedback and critique by one student reader and myself.
  5. Encouraging revision and completion of your
    paper in a final form that might be considered for subsequent professional
    presentation orally or submission for publication.


Course Requirements:

  1. Attendance and
    participation (20%)
  2. Oral and written
    interpretation of one required reading and critique of related scholarly
    article (30%)

Research project:  presentation, peer critique,
revision, final             submission


Required texts:

1.  Sir Philip Sidney, The Major WorksOxford UP,

2.  – – -., The
Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (The Old Arcadia
) Oxford UP, 2008

3.  Edmund
Spenser’s Poetry
Norton Critical Edition, 4th edition, 2013


Supplementary texts:

1.  Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, Penguin, 1977

2.  Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene,Penguin, 1979

3.  Edmund Spenser, The Shorter Poems,Penguin, 2000