English 633S: Spenser, Milton and the New World

Prof. Charles Ross; Spring 2005

HEAV 122; TTh 4:30-5:45


Assigned Texts (available at Vonís)


Hamilton, A. C. ed. Spenser: The Faerie Queene. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2001.

Fowler, Alistair, ed. Milton: Paradise Lost. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 1998.

Rowse, A. L. The Elizabethans and America. New York: Harper, 1959 (out of print: available at the WebCT Vista site for this course.)


Limbo text:

Statius, Thebaid (Seven Against Thebes). Trans. Charles Staneley Ross. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2004.


Goals for the course

To read and understand Spenser's Faerie Queene and Milton's Paradise Lost from literary, historical, and cultural perspectives. To become familiar with the major critical approaches to these works. To understand their literary contexts, particularly by comparison with Statius' Thebaid, an exemplary epic, a model for both Spenser and Milton in their quest to overgo Homer and Virgil. To understand what role, if any, these works played in the translation of English culture to America in the 16th and 17th centuries.


Method of the course:

This is a graduate seminar. That means several things. Most important for you is that the method for reaching the goals of the course is your writing a research paper. Your research will take you back to some of the classic studies of these poets (see the bibliographical handout) as well as forward to the most contemporary theories. For me, a seminar is a place to explore new ideas, take risks, try to help you find interesting topics that let you create your own expertise. I have not given you a page-by-page syllabus because I canít foresee exactly how we need to proceed. Although I have a fair idea, I want to remain flexible. You may find the reading assignments somewhat light. That is another result of the seminar format as opposed to the more difficult experience of learning to tie your shoes in kindergarten (Iím not kidding; think about it). You should be working through the bibliography, checking journals, tracking down notes, really trying to figure out whatís going on, writing your own outlines of the poems. I will presume you are all re-reading the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible, Virgilís Aeneid, and Ovidís Metamorphoses, since these are fundamental to both poets. But I wonít be checking up on you. No test on those shoe laces.



1.        You are expected to attend every class.

2.        Check between classes for handouts and messages posted on the website. Iím hoping to get a chatroom going. Read the handouts.

3.        Bring in two written questions to each class, based on the dayís reading assignment. One can be a genuine issue. The other you should know the answer to. You can write out or outline the answer on the paper you hand in. These will be the basis for class discussion to keep me from talking all the time.

4.        Compare two major articles or book chapters on Milton, Spenser, or the impact of English culture on the New World. 5 pages. Due February 15.

5.        Research and write a 20-30 page paper. Due April 15.

6.        Present a twenty-minute, written paper (as you would for a conference) based on your longer research paper. These will presented during the last two weeks.

7.        Attend two talks outside of regular class hours. On April 16th, a Saturday, (mark this on your calendars; get the babysitter lined up), we will take a class trip to Chicago to hear Prof. Valeria Finucci of Duke speak on the female warrior in the epic. Then at 1:30 on April 20th, in HEAV 320, Prof. Wendy Larsen will speak on the female martial arts figure in films (including Chinese films).


OK: thereís has to be some guideline. We are going to devote a day to each book of Paradise Lost. If we spend a week on each book of The Faerie Queene weíd use up most of our time and all of your patience. To maintain the flexibility of the seminar and to catch you while you are still strong during the semester, I want to start with some of the more obscure parts of Milton then skip to some obscure parts of The Faerie Queene, then talk a bit about epics and the New World (the theme of the seminar). From there we can proceed in an orderly fashion.


January 11: Scanning Miltonís Paradise Lost

January 13: Paradise Lost book 5: Chez Adam and Eve: The structure of a book


January 18: Paradise Lost book 8: Galileo and the epic topic

January 20: Faerie Queene II, cantos 4-5. Psychological allegory; Thebaid 1


January 25: FQ 1.1-2;

January 27: FQ 1.3-6


February 1: FQ 1.7-9

February 3: FQ 1.10-12


February 8: PL 1-2

February 10: PL 3-4


February 15: FQ 3.1-3

February 17: no class


February 22: FQ 3.4-6 PL

February 24: FQ 3.7-9


March 1: FQ 3.10-12

March 3: PL 6-7


March 8: PL 9

March 10: PL 10


Spring Break


March 22: The New World

March 24: Thebaid 2-4


March 29: Thebaid 5-7

March 31: Thebaid 8-10


April 5: Thebaid 11-12

April 7: PL 11-12


April 12: FQ 4

April 14: FQ 5


April 19: FQ 6-7

April 21: presentations


April 26: presentations

April 28: presentations