English 232 - Winter, 2022

Problems in English Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Werth, Tiffany
CRN: 44419
Time: R 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies


ENL 232 Starry Messengers and the Renaissance Cosmos
University of California, Davis Winter term 2022.

Course Description: Medievalist Carl Phelphstead?s critique of the environmental humanities? earth centric focus asks us to look heavenward, to think ?cosmocritically.? This course takes up that challenge to explore what Renaissance theologians, philosophers, poets, and dramatists considered the immutable realm beyond the moon. We will consider the Biblical and Christian heritage behind how the Renaissance world imagined the sky to be the dwelling place of God and his angels and the frequently jarring syncretism of that belief system with a classical and pagan perspective. We will also explore how emerging technologies of cartography, optics, and ocean navigation opened up new methods for spying the heavens and charting the paths of stars and the air in between. How did these early modern cosmologies and their new found technologies (re)orient human relationships to the planet? How did they shape a global imagination and forge the pathways in between? What kind of entities were starry messengers? To explore these questions, our readings will range from poets? exploring the sublunary realm, to drawings of inventions for sky machines, to imagining epic voyages to (and colonies? on) the moon, and mapping the heavens. Many of our readings will be taken from primary database sources such Early English Books Online and Early European Books Online that will offer experience in working with premodern archives.

Students in this course will have the opportunity to join an international network of scholars who are part of a trilogy of conferences, ?Earth, Sea, and Sky.? There will also be some shared modules with a concurrent graduate course being run at the University of British Columbia on the topic of ?Sky?s the Limit.?



Article / Book Review (1 page) 10%

Weekly Reading Question and Brief Reflection (@200 words) submitted to class discussion board by Wednesday night 10%

Annotated Bibliography of Research Paper and Research Proposal (8-10 entries with one paragraph summary) 5%

Sky Seminar Paper (roundtable length 8-9 pp) 75%


The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World, Cavendish, Margret. Ed. Sara Mendelson
The Man in the Moone, Godwin, Francis Ed. William Poole.
Paradise Lost, Milton, John. Ed. David Scott Kastan
The Tempest , Shakespeare, William. Ed. Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan.