English 232 - Winter, 2020

Problems in English Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Werth, Tiffany
CRN: 76968
Time: W 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Genre, Theory


    Allegory, the Unthinkable, and the More-than-Human in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1596) and Amoretti

    Course Description:

    Modern readers might think of Edmund Spenser as the author of one of England's longest poems writ, as Ben Jonson quipped, in "no language." An unfinished work, it praises Queen Elizabeth I, memorialized as Gloriana, Belphoebe, Cynthia, or the "Faerie Queene." Yet while the poem seemingly shadows this human monarch, she barely appears and its world teems with what cultural geographer Sarah Whatmore terms more-than-human life: a "clownishe" and elfin knight, a mournful tree, an unfriendly dragon, false avatars, a crafty shape-shifting hermit, a resourceful dwarf, an iron man, gender-bending heroines, giants and a blatant beast, within an interwoven plot that tells of two rivers in love, a sea deity who sulks, graces and angels who disappear, self-guided lances, a headstrong horse and a happy human-come-hog. This course explores the limits of literary modes such as allegory, the poetics of lyric, and the long form of the early modern romance alongside questions that stretch the meaning of "human." Together, we will analyze Spenser's "worlding" that anticipates many recent posthumanist theories (ecofeminism, the Chthulucene, game theory, geontologies, and other unthinkables).

    A word to the intended reader: the readings that comprise our nine weeks together will be "clowdily enwrapped," full of "darke conceit," an "endlesse worke" that may at times "seeme tedious and confused." But if pursued like a hound on the scent, promises more pleasure than a sermon and whose end will be to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline."


    Course Requirements:

    5% Active Seminar Engagement and Participation

    Showing up regularly and on time is not enough for a graduate level course engagement. You are expected to be an active participant. Come to class with your opinions, your rationale, and your interpretation, and at least one question for every session.

    15% History Exercise (3-4 pp / rolling deadline).

    5% Research proposal & annotated bibliography

    May build off the history exercise; 6-8 secondary peer-reviewed sources; one paragraph that justifies your archive of chosen passages from the syllabus readings, one paragraph that formulates a research question, and an annotated bibliography of secondary sources (6-8) with one - two paragraphs of critical annotation for each source.

    75% Roundtable Length Critical Essay / Creative Analytic Project and Critical Rationale (10-12 pp)


    Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queene. 2nd edition. , Eds. A.C. Hamilton, Hiroshi Yamashita, and Toshiyuki Suzuki. Longman, 2006.