Course Instructor Days Times Room


Seventeenth century English poetry reflects and responds to revolutionary cultural shifts, from advancements in biological sciences and medicine to the ongoing Protestant Reformation, the English civil war, and the global exploration and conquest that began to define the British Empire.  What emerged was poetry that grappled with new philosophies. The wild and arcane imagery in the “metaphysical” conceits of John Donne and Henry Vaughan mapped out scientific and medical discoveries, and the poetry of Mary Wroth and Andrew Marvell forged a new relationship between humans and nature.  The religious lyrics of George Herbert and Richard Crashaw dramatized the Protestant quest for an intimate relationship with the divine, in some cases so intimate that it could be called erotic.  We will combine our readings of poetry with excerpts from Renaissance texts on natural science, medicine, exploration, and religion by writers such as Francis Bacon and Thomas Browne, along with readings in current literary scholarship and history.


• Regular and prompt attendance and active, vocal discussion participation (10%)
• OED assignment (3pp) (20%)
• Paper proposal with mini-bibliography (5pp) (30%)
• Final research paper in lieu of exam (10pp) (40%)


Please make every effort to attend every class.  Only serious absences with letters will be excused.

Five unexcused absences: you will be sent a warning, and your participation grade will drop to a C (75).

Six unexcused absences: you will be dropped from the course.


Primary Texts
Donne, John. The Major Works. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009).
Herbert, George.  The Complete English Poems. (New York: Penguin, 2005).
Seventeenth-Century British Poetry, 1603-1660  (New York: Norton, 2005)
Shakespeare, William.  Booth, Stephen, ed. Shakespeare’s Sonnets (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000)
Wroth, Mary. Roberts, Josephine, ed. The Poems of Lady Mary Wroth (Baton Rouge: LSU P, 1983).

17th Century Prose Readings (pdfs on eLC):
Bacon, Francis. The Great Instauration (selection)
Browne, Thomas. The Garden of Cyrus.
Donne, Death’s Duel (sermon)
Stow, John. A Survey of London (map, and selection)

In addition, a selection of critical articles, images, and book chapters will be posted on eLC.