First Day Remarks

English 520

Dr. Fike


About the requirements:  syllabus and calendar are online—get copies.

·       20% - Response papers (use them to work toward a term paper)

·       20% - Research paper (a draft is required)

·       20% - Midterm in class

·       20% - Final examination

·       20% - Class presence (punctuality, attendance, participation)


Mention the way I have structured the written work so that it builds toward a research paper.  Also mention the daily handouts.


17th century:  1603-1688.  Period goes from the death of Eliz/accession of James I (James VI of Scotland) to King James II’s flight for France.  Followed in 1689 by the coronation of Wm and Mary.


Harmon and Holman’s A Handbook to Literature have 1500-1660 as the dates of the Renaissance.  And under that designator, they have the following:

·       1500-1557       Early Tudor Age

·       1558-1603       Elizabethan Age

·       1603-1625       Jacobean Age

·       1625-1642       Caroline Age (ML Carolus, Charles)

·       1649-1660       Commonwealth Interregnum


They indicate that the Restoration Age (1660-1700) is part of the Neoclassical Period (1660-1798).

Our course will thus overlap the Neoclassical Period somewhat because we’ll consider works from the late part of the period (specifically, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Behn’s Oroonoko).


We have the following things in between those dates:

·       King James I (1603-1625):  Protestant

·       King Charles I (1625-1649):  Protestant but had a Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria of France

·       Cromwell’s Protectorate (1649-1659):  he was an Independent, i.e., a Puritan who wanted even less church government than the Presbyterians; named Lord Protector = “a term used in earlier centuries when a member of the nobility would stand in a for a monarch who had not yet come of age” (53 in The Seventeenth-Century Literature Handbook, ed. Evans and Sterling).

·       King Charles II (1660-1685):  officially Anglican but tolerant of Catholics; Catholic wife; converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.

·       King James II (C2’s brother) (1685-1688):  Catholic

·       King William (and Mary, J2’s daughter) (1689-1702):  Protestant; their coming to power is known as the Glorious Revolution.



This is a course in poetry and prose of the 17th century. 

·       We’ll look first at religious and secular prose. 

·       We’ll look at religious and secular poetry.

·       We’ll end with three major events:

o   The Civil War (1642-1646)

o   Colonialism

o   The Great Fire (1666)


Consider these major historical events:

·       The English people killed their king, Charles I.  They experimented with a different form of government under Cromwell.  Then monarchy was restored.

·       This is the period when the Jamestown colony was founded, when the Pilgrims arrived in America on the Mayflower, and when slaves were first brought to the new world.  Puritans like Edward Taylor, Mary Rowlandson, and Anne Bradstreet left England for North America and wrote about their experiences there.

·       This is the period when the theaters were closed and then reopened, with females now being allowed to act. 

·       This is the period when the first woman made her living by writing—Aphra Behn (which is why she is celebrated by Woolf in A Room of One’s Own).

·       This is the period that saw the birth of the modern scientific method (inductive method) and the idea that science should give us dominion over nature—cf. HMXP) and the crumbling of the Ptolemaic world view and humour theory (now we have astronomy and anatomy:  Galileo and Vesalius, respectively).


So it’s a period of great historical significance in the development of England as we know it today—and for that matter of our own country.


Postings on Web site:  We’ll continue to try to flesh out the historical context as we do our work.


Now we’re going to look at some poems to get peek at what’s going on in the literature.  So here’s a problem for you (give handout on Suckling and Wroth):  What can you make of the similarities and differences between the two poems?  That is, what points emerge?

·       The first one is a Cavalier poem.  The Cavalier poets began as members of the “Tribe of Ben”:  Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, and Sir John Suckling.

·       H&H:

o   Such poems are “lighthearted in tone; graceful, melodious, and polished in manner; artfully showing Latin classical influences; sometimes licentious and cynical or epigrammatic and witty.”

o   “At times it breathed the careless braggadocio of the military swashbuckler, at times the aristocratic ease of the peaceable courtier.”

o   “Many of the poems were occasional” (i.e., poetry written for a particular occasion).

o   “The themes were love, war, chivalry, and loyalty to the king.”  Note:  During the Civil War, the king’s soldiers were known as Cavaliers.




Here is the statement from Evans and Sterling’s  handbook:


“As well as indicating those who favored the Royalist cause, the category ‘Cavalier poets’ seems to have arisen as an alternative to ‘Metaphysical poets’.  Instead of employing intellectual conceits, Cavalier poets generally employ frank, colloquial diction in amatory, celebratory, and occasional poems, while, according to critical traditions, they supposedly ‘attempt no plumbing of the depths of the soul.  They treat life cavalierly, indeed, and sometimes they treat poetic convention cavalierly too’” (Crowley 76).


“Cavalier poets generally praise tradition, loyalty, hospitality, and the good life.  They also admire the elegance and the imitation of classical poetic models evident in Jonson’s lyrics; in fact many poets now labeled ‘Cavalier’ once labeled themselves the ‘sons’ or ‘tribe’ of Ben and held regular meetings with Jonson at various taverns” (Crowley 76).


·       Re. the Suckling poem:  it appears as if the unconventional voice has the upper hand; in the final stanza, Thom.’s Platonic view (woman as “A thing so near a deity”) cannot reverse the emphasis on “flesh and blood” that J.S. has asserted.  Thus we begin to see some characteristics of 17th century verse: 

o   The poem is a dramatic event—a conversation between two speakers (this is nothing new—cf. Spenser; we’ll see it in Donne).

o   But it presents and undermines literary convention (the effusive praise of the woman in stanza 1, the way the speaker makes her a Platonic deity). 

o   Typical of Cavalier verse, this poem ends on a licentious note.


·       Wroth poems:  These sonnets are on 83 on page 236 in your anthology. 

o   Note another Platonic element:  “two hearts . . . one soul” means that “the Neoplatonic ideal of love was a single soul in two bodies” (236, note 3). 

o   Moreover, these are Petrarchan sonnets:  a description (octave), an implication/consequence (sestet), and a moral linking to the next poem (final couplet). 

o   Highly conventional romantic language.  But now it is in the mouth of a woman speaking to a man. 

o   Point:  Again, an undermining of literary convention. 

o   SO:  Let’s be on the lookout for the new and the unexpected in our journey through this course.