ENGL 204: Renaissance Literature
Spring, 2018

Class meets: W/F 8:10-10:00 AM in 2-13
Office: 47-35G, tel. 756-2636 (note: I am only in my office for office hours -- email is best for communication) 
Office Hours: M 8:10-10 AM, T/Th 12:30-1:30 PM, and by appt.
Queen Elizabeth Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
e-mail: dschwart@calpoly.edu 
ENGL Dept.:  756-2597 

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Michelangelo, The
              Creation of Man (Sistine Chapel Ceiling) Calendar of Assignments: Please note that the on-line syllabus (not any printout you might make) is authoritative.  Assignments may be modified in the course of the quarter.  Check the on-line syllabus regularly (before each class) to ensure that you are completing correct assignment. 

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Course Information:
Graded and Written Work:

Study Guides: Web links: Online Readings:

Prerequisites: Completion of GE area A and ENGL 251; ENGL 203 recommended; open to ENGLISH MAJORS ONLY.

Course Description and Objectives:

King Henry VIIIQueen ElizabethENGL 204 presents significant writers and literary works of the English Renaissance and early seventeenth century in their historical and cultural context and points to connections between these works / authors and their Colonial American counterparts.
Despite an astonishing proliferation of English writings during this period (due to the shift from a manuscript to a print culture, the increasingly literate populace, the Humanist and Reformation movements, among other factors), English was still considered less "literary" than Latin and Greek, the languages of classical antiquity. While tracing the evolution of three principal genres -- lyric poetry, theater, and the epic -- we will explore the ways in which Renaissance and early seventeenth-century writers sought to establish and defend the literary legitimacy of the English tongue.
In addition to the tension between Latin and the vernacular, we will notice other tensions -- between various religious and political factions, between European "civilization" and the New World, between the genders -- as they are reflected in our readings.

Required Texts
1) Available for purchase at El Corral: 
  • The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th ed. (2012), vol. b, The Sixteenth Century; The Early Seventeenth Century, eds. Stephen Greenblatt, George Logan, Katharine Eisaman Maus, and Barbara K. Lewalski
  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Signet Classics edition is REQUIRED)
2) Other required readings will be accessed electronically, as .HTML files through links on this website, or as .PDF files that have been placed on "electronic reserve" on Polylearn. Please note that ALL required electronically accessed readings should be printed out, placed in a course binder, and brought with you to class. To access Polylearn, log in at MyCalpoly, go to "My Courses" and select ENGL 204 from the classes you are taking. Click on the PolyLearn link to download, read and/or print the .PDF files using Acrobat Reader. To access online readings in .html files, click on the link on the Calendar of Assignments.  You should have either an electronic copy or hard copy of assigned texts with you in class.

Queen Elizabeth with
        an ermine Preliminary Remarks:

Much of what is presented will be new to most of you, and many of the readings reflect assumptions and ideas that appear strange to a twenty-first-century audience. For these reasons, several remarks are in order.

1) Survey courses cover lots of ground, and can be frustrating at times. The material is complex and challenging, the pace brisk. Invariably, there will be topics/authors that you find hard to grasp or simply don't enjoy. When this occurs, please keep in mind that you are not expected to master ANY of the material presented to the same degree as in a course with a narrower focus. This reminder does NOT mean that you do not need to read carefully. It DOES mean that you should not torture yourself if the details of a given text prove difficult to grasp. We are looking for the broad picture, not the close-up; the idea is to provide you with a sense of the way in which English literature -- and English perceptions of what literature is -- evolved during the course of the Renaissance and early seventeenth century. Readings will be considered as cultural artifacts, contextual evidence reflecting the "world view" of the author and period in which they were written.

2) During this period, literature was intimately linked with both politics and religion. There was no separation of Church and State: religion played a significant role in educational opportunities, social standing, and career success. For this reason -- and because the Bible, along with classical literature, was the primary model for the Book in the Renaissance -- many readings deal with Christian themes. We will approach them as cultural artifacts rather than articles of faith, attempting to understand the society which produced them and the world view they represent. While students familiar with the Bible will find this background useful, no prior knowledge of Judeo-Christian tradition is assumed or required. If something puzzles you, try the following (in this order!): a) check the footnotes and/or introduction to see if an explanation is provided; b) consult a dictionary or encyclopedia; and c) ask about it in class or office hours. (Chances are, someone else is just as puzzled as you are!)

3) Due to time constraints, class will focus on interpretation rather than description. Familiarity with the assigned background and primary readings will be assumed. Readings will NOT be summarized in class (which ideally should combine discussion with lecture). Thus, the success of ENGL 204 depends largely on you. Please make a personal commitment to come to class regularly, punctually, and prepared. Without these preconditions, ENGL 204 will be of little use to you -- and no fun for any of us! SO: be prepared for an intense quarter. But also remember that I LOVE teaching this stuff, and expect to have fun!

First Folio photoCommunicating:
You are expected to have an email account and to check it regularly.  Important announcements will be sent over the class email alias Email aliases are automatically generated using the email address in each enrolled student's account in the Cal Poly Directory server. If your Cal Poly email account is NOT your preferred email address, you must

Remember: you are responsible for any information sent over the class email alias (e.g. changes in class meetings or assignments), so be sure to check your email regularly. 

Participation 1: Attendance Policy:  Due to the twice-weekly format, any absence causes you to miss a substantial chunk of material. Regular and punctual attendance is required.  Please note that EVERY absence will affect the participation component of your final course grade.

occasional absences for personal
        reasons are understandable. . . but not excused!Each student starts out with a 4.0 for attendance.  This component of your final grade drops by .3 for the first UNEXCUSED absence; the penalty increases by .1 for each subsequent unexcused absence (from A [4.0] to A- [3.7] to B+ [3.3], to B- [2.8], etc.).  Additionally, it drops .1 for the first EXCUSED absence (4.0 to 3.9) and .2 for the second excused absence (3.9 to 3.7).  Excused absences in excess of two (a full week, 10% of the class) count the same as unexcused absences.

Please note that only absences resulting from illness, a family emergency, or circumstances truly beyond your control count as excused.  Absences taken for personal convenience are a matter of choice rather than necessity; they will be recorded as unexcused. Please note that deadlines for other courses, work conflicts and job interviews are NOT valid reasons for missing class.  Exception:  a graduating senior will be granted ONE excused absence for an out-of-town job interview.

FOR ANY ABSENCE TO BE EXCUSED, you must communicate with me in writing, either from your Cal Poly email account or on a hard-copy note signed by you.  Include the course number, the date you missed class, and an explanation of the circumstances leading to your absence. 

Participation 2: Intellectual Engagement and Collaboration.  In addition to regular class attendance, the 35% participation component of your final course grade will reflect your intellectual engagement with the material and your willingness to collaborate with your peers as demonstrated through participation in an online PolyLearn discussion board and through peer editing.

You will be assigned to a PolyLearn discussion group of 6-8 students to which you will post a series of short (2-pg.) Mini-Essays (=MEs) over the course of the quarter.  Each time a mini-essay ("ME") is assigned, you are expected to read the postings of the other members of your discussion group and to post a thoughtful response of at least one paragraph to TWO of their postings. These Classmate Responses (=CRs) must include additional textual evidence from the text under discussion; you must post CRs to at least two of your classmates each time an ME is assigned. 

Discussion group postings (both MEs and CRs) will be graded pass/fail only, but they will be factored into the 35% participation component of your final course grade.  EACH MISSING DISCUSSION BOARD POSTING WILL COUNT AS AN UNEXCUSED ABSENCE.  NOTE: the 6 required MEs and 12 required CRs must be posted in order for you to be eligible to receive credit for the GRADED writing assignment, a revised/expanded ME-based paper worth 15% of your final course grade.

The final ungraded assignment that counts towards your Intellectual Engagement and Collaboration grade is the required Peer Editing Assignment you will complete for ONE other member of your Discussion Group and which s/he must turn in along with her/his Revised/Expanded ME-Based Graded Paper

The Peer-Editing assignment requires filling out a hard copy print-out of the Essay Evaluation Checklist available on Polylearn; writing editing suggestions on the first draft of the classmate's essay using the Error Codes at the bottom of the Essay Evaluation Checklist; CIRCLING on that checklist ALL error codes used in peer-editing the first draft ME; and writing an end comment with at least one constructive suggestion as to how the ME might be strengthened or expanded.  Be sure that you include your name AND the name of the person whose ME you are peer-editing on both the marked-up first draft AND the filled out checklist.  (E.g., ME by NAME; feedback by peer editor YOUR NAME).


William ShakespeareNo prior familiarity with the Renaissance and early seventeenth century is presupposed for ENGL 204 -- I will endeavor to give you all the guidance you need for an initial reading of these works. Do the assigned readings conscientiously, USING THE STUDY GUIDES, and you will do fine. If you're having problems, please come see me about it!!

Queen ElizabethENGL 204 is reading-intensive. You will need more time for these readings than for a similar number of pages in a modern novel. Budget time to complete readings BEFORE class on the date assigned. Read background materials first; they provide the context within which primary readings will be most meaningful. If you run out of time, don't skip class; read the headnote and as much as possible of the primary readings, and go back to fill in the details after class discussion.

Study Guides are provided on the class website -- USE THEM!! Guides both provide background information and ask you questions to consider and seek answers for as you read.  Use the Study Guides conscientously, and you will be adequately prepared for reading quizzes.

Suggested Preparation Method:  Familiarize yourself with the study questions BEFORE you begin to read and refer to them frequently AS you read, jotting down notes as you go along. Upon completing your readings, you are advised to reread the questions and write up a summary of your ideas. This summary will NOT be collected or graded, but will be help you prepare for quizzes, papers and exams -- and class discussion!

Readings are to be completed BEFORE coming to class on the date assigned. Introductions and other background readings should ideally be read first; they are the context within which primary readings will be most meaningful. The Introductions to the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries in the Norton Anthology provide an overview of historical developments; see also the headnotes to individual authors and works.  Also useful are parts of three appendices: the British monarchs from the House of Tudor through the House of Stuart (Restored); "Religions in England"; and "Poetic Forms and Literary Terminology." Other background information is provided in online or e-reserve readings and on study guides. Please note that this background material is an integral part of the course and will be covered on reading quizzes and exams. When reading primary texts, refer conscientiously to the critical apparatus (footnotes, glossary, etc.).

Be prepared to DISCUSS readings in class. Note that length and difficulty of assignments vary, so look ahead in the reading list when you are planning your time. You are responsible for ALL the assigned readings, whether fully discussed in class or not, and for material covered in handouts, lectures and discussions.

Graded Work:

Queen Mary Tudor (AKA Bloody Mary,
        daughter of Henvy VIII and Catherine of Aragon)Jane Seymour (3rd wife of Henry VIII, mother of Edward VI)POSSIBLE READING QUIZZES: In the past, I used weekly reading quizzes to keep students on their toes, to ensure that assigned readings were actually read, and to habituate students to learning essential background information as we go along rather than leaving it all to be crammed into your weary brains as you review for exams.  These ENGL 204 quizzes incorporated factual questions (author names and biographical information, including social class, education, and religious/political affiliation; titles, dates, genres and forms of works; etc.) based on assigned introductions and information provided in study guides or assigned background readings.  Quizzes also contained passage IDs from the assigned primary readings. 

These quizzes were highly effective in motivating students to keep up with readings and learn the assigned material, and while students initially found them intimidating, they were frequently mentioned on course evaluations as a valuable part of the class.
BUT . . . quizzes take up a lot of time -- both class time that could otherwise be used for discussion, and the instructor time necessary to write and grade them.  SO. . . rather than including quizzes in the graded work, I will provide copies of old quizzes to be used as study guides for the midterm and final exams. 

NOTE:  If I perceive that students are not keeping up with the readings, I reserve the right to reinstate weekly reading quizzes.  In this case, the Participation, Mini-Essays, and Reading Quiz components of the final course grade will be worth 10 % each.

POLYLEARN DISCUSSION BOARD postings: Each student will be assigned to a Polylearn Discussion Board group of 6-8 students.  You will practice your analytic writing and close reading skills by posting a series of ungraded, two-page Polylearn Discussion Group Mini-Essays [= "MEs"] and ungraded, 1-2 paragraph Classmate Responses [= "CRs"] to MEs posted by your peers.  Ungraded MEs and CRs count towards your Intellectual Engagement and Collaboration grade AND are REQUIRED in order to receive credit for the GRADED REVISED/EXPANDED ME-BASED PAPER that counts for 15% of your final course grade. Both MEs and CRs will require close reading of supporting quotations from assigned texts. 

MINI-ESSAY LOGISTICS:  Each student will be assigned to a Polylearn Discussion Group of 6-8 students.  You must post six two-page MEs to your Polylearn Discussion Group by no later than midnight on the dates indicated on the Calendar of Assignments (three MEs before and three after the midterm exam). MEs 1-2 and 4-6 will be thematic analyses focusing on a topic of your choice; ME 3 will be a sonnet analysis which must articulate the central message of ONE of the assigned sonnets and explain how the formal aspects of the poem help to convey that meaning.

Based upon Discussion Group CR feedback, optional visits to the Writing Center and conversations with your instructor during an Office Hour, and the required Peer-Editing Feedback, you will revise ONE ME and submit it in hard copy (along with the Peer-Edited initial draft and Essay Evaluation Checklist) for instructor feedback and a grade.   

-- MINI-ESSAY SPECIFICS: These short assignments are designed to make you attentive to details in the works under discussion.  They should be narrowly focused on topics that can be covered within the two-page target length.  The two-page target length will also oblige you to get to the point (lead with your conclusion; articulate your claims fully and explicitly; avoid broad statements and generalities; no "hook!"); to cut out unnecessary wordiness ("dead wood"); and to express your ideas clearly and concisely. 

MEs may be a response to a study question, an analysis of how a specific aspect of a work helps communicate an author or director's message or intentions, or a comparison of a specific element with an analogous element in a previously assigned work.  Regardless of the topic you choose, mini-essays MUST include analysis and interpretation of carefully chosen citations from the text.   An effective ME uses close reading of carefully chosen textual evidence to support an interpretive claim about the text or film.  You will need a narrow focus so that you can really "unpack" the language and/or images in the scenes and passages you discuss without exceeding the two-page target length.  Careful analysis of a single character, a specific relationship, a key image, or an important scene or speech may be enough to fill two pages.

MEs should present a logically organized argument to demonstrate the validity of an explicitly stated interpretive claim; don't simply describe elements in the text or summarize plot.  You have freedom to explore an aspect of an assigned text that interests you, but you must keep your focus on the text itself, not background information or the way in which the text speaks to you on a personal level.  You may find it helpful to begin by brainstorming in response to a question on an online Study Guide; to explore how a key image or theme is presented in a limited number of passages within your chosen text; or to analyze an author's use of a literary device that is of interest to you.   Whatever topic you choose, your ME must be grounded in close readinginterpretive analysis of specific passages and scenes.  You will discover that close attention to specific imagery, word choice, etc. in a single descriptive passage or significant scene may be enough to fill your two-page target length! 

For fuller details, see the Mini-Essay Assignment Guidelines and the Essay Evaluation Checklist. NOTE: You should familiarize yourself with this checklist before you start to write, and take care to avoid the issues and errors that are included on the Checklist and in the Grading Codes!

POSTING GUIDELINES:  Mini-Essays are due no later than midnight on the Fridays indicated on the Calendar of Assignments. The text of your Mini-Essays must be pasted into the message field of your Discussion Group posting so that classmates can respond to it in a Discussion thread.  Additionally, you must attach your ME as a .docx file so that I can easily access an electronic copy of all MEs (and evaluate the changes made to graded papers during the revision process). 

-- IMPORTANT: in order to receive credit for each ME, you must post at least two short (but thoughtful) Classmate responses [= "CRs"] to MEs posted by two members of your Polylearn Discussion Group (with whom you may agree or disagree, as long as you do so respectfully and back up your response with your own textual support).  CRs must including at least one ADDITIONAL quotation from the text (i.e. a quotation that was not included in the ME to which you are responding) in support of your observations.  CRs are due no later than midnight on the Mondays indicated on the Calendar of Assignments.

Your twelve CRs submitted over the course of the quarter will not be graded as Written Work, but they are required to get credit for the ME REVISION/EXPANSION PAPER you will submit for a grade; additionally, CRs, like MEs, factor into the Intellectual Engagement and Collaboration component of your final course grade. Each missing ME and each missing CR counts as an Unexcused Absence.

scribe at workGRADED PAPER:  1) A sonnet analysis (2-3 pages, due F 1/31) on a sonnet of your choice found in the Norton Anthology by one of the assigned sonnet-writers.  

2) final graded paper, an expansion and revision of ME 1 through 4.  This essay should be literary analysis incorporating close reading of one or at most two works/authors read this quarter. As you choose your topic, bear in mind that the work(s) which are the focus of your graded paper are off-limits for the essay you write as part of the Final Exam.


You MUST take the final exam at the scheduled time.  Please KEEP THIS IN MIND AS YOU MAKE TRAVEL PLANS! 

Both exams will cover assigned primary and background readings as well as material presented in lectures; they will include passages to identify from the primary texts; factual questions based on background materials (including online readings and e-reserves); identification of key characters, themes or objects in assigned literary works; and an essay (worth a significant portion of the exam points). The Final will be semi-cumulative, but will put greater emphasis on work assigned since the Midterm.

-- EXTRA CREDIT possible for in-class performance of a monologue or scene from Marlowe's Dr. Faustus or Shakespeare's Tempest (if interested, see me to set up a performance date).  Additional points for creativity, costumes, props and memorization!!!

Henry VIII
        (portrait by Holbein)Lady Jane Grey
        (great-granddaughter of Henry VII; Protestant choice to succeed
        Edward VI; beheaded by Bloody Mary Tudor in 1554)Grading:
35% Participation, Intellectual Engagement, and Collaboration (based on attendance; submission of 6 ungraded MEs and 12 ungraded CRs to your PolyLearn Discussion Group; completion of Peer Editing Assignment for one member of Discussion Group)
15% Revised/Expanded ME-Based Paper: turned in (along with hard copy of a classmate's Peer-Editing Assignment) for detailed instructor feedback and a Grade.
20% Midterm (Exams component, 50% of final course grade, will be based upon cumulative total of exam points earned on 200 pt. midterm and 300 pt. final).
30 % Final Exam (Exams component, 50% of final course grade, will be based upon cumulative total of exam points earned on 200 pt. midterm and 300 pt. final).


Of course you can -- if you keep up with readings and use study guides / old reading quizzes to help you learn material as you go along!  But if you have a heavy course- or work-load this quarter, be sure to budget time for this class.

Finally . . . I LOVE teaching this stuff, and I'm told that my enthusisam makes my classes more fun!

Contents of this and all linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 1997-2018