English 514:  Elizabethan Literature

Spring 2014 (TR, 2:00-3:15)


Course Description:  English 514—offered for graduate and undergraduate credit and centered on three main figures:  Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare—surveys poetry, prose narratives, drama, and critical theory of the Elizabethan period (1558–1603).  The course divides into three units: 

Requirements:  The course requires a midterm examination to be written in class, four response papers, a longer researched essay, a final examination, and participation.  The midterm and final examinations will be open-book and open-notes, and there will be fewer stages in the paper assignment than there are in my Shakespeare class.  Undergraduates will write four response papers (each a minimum of 2 full pages) and a longer researched essay of at least 8 pages (it may be based on one or more of your response papers).  I will not use a portfolio system, but I will be glad to read your drafts if they are submitted at least a week before the due dates.  Graduate students will have the same requirements, but they will write a slightly longer research paper (at least 12 pages) that uses more sources.


Course Format:  My hope and intention is that we will be able to operate “collegially,” which means with a high degree of student engagement.  I will fill in gaps where gaps need to be filled, but otherwise I will expect you to discuss and discover on your own.  I will provide questions and pose problems in advance (in fact, the daily handouts are already posted on the course website); the rest is largely up to you.  The course will operate almost exclusively on the basis of small- and large-group discussion, and there will be a great emphasis on in-class reports and on out-of-class collaboration.


Critical Issues:  This course may be for you if you find any of the following questions intriguing:  What is the second most important book in Elizabethan England?  Which play provided Shakespeare a model for Prospero in The Tempest?  What happens to persons psychologically and spiritually on their deathbed?  How can one have a “good” death?  Who was the dark lady in Shakespeare’s sonnets?  What is the “shape” of a poet’s career?  What is historical allegory?  What kind of voice did women writers have four centuries ago?  I hope that you will consider joining me  for an exploration of these and other questions.


With all best wishes,


Dr. Fike