Country, City and Court: Renaissance Literature 1558-1618 (EASM124)

30 credits

Country, City and Court focuses on three important sites of literary production in the Renaissance. These were also spheres of social and ideological struggle, and writers were consistently drawn to reflect on changes and conflicts within them. The module traces the debates over the underlying values and meanings of these sites, and the nature of their interactions, through famous works such as plays by Shakespeare and Jonson, epic poetry such as Spenser's Faerie Queene, early prose fiction by Nashe, and estate poetry, and through less well known texts such as libels, progresses and pageantry literature, rogue pamphlets, and documents of revolt. Across such texts, the module addresses questions such as: Was the countryside defined by values of community and traditional morality, or was it a place of exploitation and individualism? Was the court the cradle of gentility and courtesy, or a milieu shaped by corruption and Machiavellian politics? How did writers in the city respond to the massive social and economic transformations of the period, and what role did writing play in shaping and defining these changes? Finally, how might we appreciate the complex web of interrelationships between the three sites?