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English 322, Winter 2008


Reading and Writing the Elizabethan Age

See also: Blackboard

This is the Assignments and Updates Page. All assignments and updates to earlier assignments will be posted here, beginning with the most recent first. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter.

March 13

Reading: None.

Writing: Portfolio Due. See Portfolio Assignment on Blackboard for details.

March 11

Today is the day we begin the Play Reports, and a copy of your written version of your report is due today. The assignment for these reports is as follows:

Play Reports: the "Porch Project"

The final event for the class will be your play reports.  For this you will work in groups, and one aim will be to represent a set of early modern dramas to the group at large, helping others in the class get some sense of the breadth and depth of Elizabethan-Jacobean theatre beyond the plays we've read together. You'll do this by representing your assigned play to the group--offering, as it were, a sort of porch to the play's building, a place where you could stand and look in the windows, see some bits and pieces of what goes on inside, get a sense of its interest and, well, yes, its weirdnesses. Added to Dr. Faustus, A Woman Killed with Kindness, and The Duchess of Malfi, your reports will result in something of a mini-anthology of the period's plays. 

But in doing this you will also be demonstrating how far you've come over the past 8 weeks.  We've been working to enable you to read early modern literature with a certain amount of comfort and sophistication; this is a chance to see for yourself how well the strategies we've been developing will work for you. 

For your report--for which you will have about 20 minutes (absolute max 24)!!!--I'd like you to do two things. 

1.  One of you needs to give a brief (NO MORE THAN 500 WORDS!), useful, interesting summary of the plot.  You won't be able to tell everything, and you don't want to drown us in detail anyway.  Each of these plays has a pretty interesting--often very bizarre--set of incidents.  Try to keep it relatively simple by focusing on the main strand, and bringing in the extra stuff only as it helps explain how the main strand works, or how the play asks you to develop its thematic conversations.  This should take NO MORE THAN 5 minutes. 

2.  Each of the other members of the group should locate a 10-12 line segment of the play that seems particularly important to them.  Each will read that segment to us (with as much dramatic presence as they can muster!) and then explain briefly but specifically how they find that segment important--i.e., what they see that passage doing for the play.  These must be under 5 minutes each--approximately the equivalent of two double spaced pages. 

If two or more of you coordinate your selections, all the better, but please do not repeat passages. Be sure to explain how your passage relates to the thematic conversations that seem most interesting to you in your reading of the play.  We've been giving examples of that all quarter long.

And that will be that.  I expect everyone from the group to take part; it isn't enough to let one person do it all!   As a response paper, turn in at the time of your report both your 10-12 line  segment, and your explanation of what you found interesting in it.  You'll be given up to 40 points for your performance; I'm looking for effective line selection and explanation, along with verve!  You will also have to rehearse your presentation with a timer!  I'm not kidding! we only have a certain amount of time to bring this all off.  Look at Spanish Tragedy; Edward II, The Shoemaker's Holiday, the Changeling, Tis Pity She's a Whore. 

March 6

Reading: Webster, Duchess of Malfi, Acts 4-5.

Writing: None. (Portfolio will be due on March 13).

March 4

Reading: Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, Acts 1-3 for Tuesday, and 4-5 for Thursday.

As the revised reading schedule says, we're reading John Webster's play, The Duchess of Malfi this week. I'm afraid we (I?) got so carried away with the quiz and with WKK that we didn't get to the inclass kickoff to the Duchess.

BUT! You can do your own kick off by reading the Wikipedia entry--it has a short plot summary as well as a round-up of the characters (click here). It's actually pretty good--it even includes a sketch of some of the recent British productions of the play. Webster, like Marlowe, Heywood, and Ford, is one of the early playwrights whose plays are regularly produced--in particular, both the Duchess and his other scary play, The White Devil. Webster is reknowned for the psychologically powerful dimensions of his characters, and the Duchess herself is one of the age's best known female roles. We talked in class on Thursday about ways in which Heywood's WKK did some things that even Shakespeare never thought to do; the same thing is true here about portraying strong and complex women. That wasn't Shakespeare's forte, though he certainly writes a lot of parts for women, and many of them are good parts. Webster, though, wins that particular prize here.

Writing: Pick ten to twelve lines and write ONE BRILLIANT PARAGRAPH. Begin with a sentence giving your best claim about the work your lines are doing for the play, and then explain how they accomplish that work, citing and exploring/explaining at least three specific choices Webster has made in the passage. Your paragraph can be longish, but the point is to use your claim about the function of the passage to maintain a clear focus. (Think of yourself as enacting Britomart's discipline upon what otherwise might seem to be your version of the Salvage Knight's strong but wanderingly diffuse reading and responding energies!)

If your last name begins with A-C, or with H, you've got Act 1; if your last name begins with D-G, or with K or L, you've got Act 2; and if your last name begins with M-Z you've got Act 3.

February 28

Reading: FEME, Chap 5 (Quiz). We'll also have an inclass kickoff to the reading of The Duchess of Malfi. We also formed Play Report groups--if you were not in class, you have been randomly assigned to the open slots--all of which were in the group for Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling ( as I said last night, one of the liveliest and most often revived plays of the period).

Writing: None beyond the inclass quiz.

February 26

Reading: Thomas Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness; "Lovely Thoughts" (handout, or see Blackboard.)

Writing: For your assigned scene, find a ten to twelve line segment that you think may be of interest in terms of the thematics of power, gender and marriage. Type it out, and then describe what work you think it is doing, and how it is doing it. (We'll do some looking ahead to this assignment in our second hour on Thursday, Feb 21.)

February 21

Reading and Writing: None. (Huh? That's right. None.)

February 19

Reading: None--BUT: this is the night of our library field trip. So we will meet at 7pm in Suzzalo Library (not Odegaard), in the Maps/Special Collections Classroom in the basement. Here are directions to the Suzzalo Maps/Special Collections Classroom:

Go to the north lobby of the Suzzalo-Allen Library [that's the room with the crows hanging above your head]. Take the elevator in that lobby to the basement. As you get out of the elevator, turn to your right and walk a short way to the hallway going off to the right. Part way down this hallway, the first door on your right is the classroom door. It will be open at the time the class is expected. No food or drink are allowed in
the room. Just to the right of the door as you enter the room, there are two closets. You will need to stow your coats, purses, bags, packs, pens, paper--i.e., everything--in those closets. Paper and Pencils will be provided for you once you get into the classroom.

ATTENTION: Those attending are asked to leave coats, purses, bags, packs, etc. in the closets just to the right of the door as you enter the room because we'll be looking at--and in some cases handling--books that are hundreds of years old. As you can imagine, these books are very fragile, and the library must safeguard them against harm as best it can.

Bring your Midterms to the classroom; I'll collect them there.


OK--you made such a good case for so many stanzas that instead of giving you a choice of 2-3 stanza chunks, I'm going to give you more choice. So.

The Assignment:

You may write on stanzas drawn from stanzas 15 to 24 of Book 4 Canto 6 of The Faerie Queene.  From these ten stanzas, pick a single two or three stanza run—any two or three consecutive stanzas—about which you would like to write (for example, stanzas 15-17 (i.e., 15, 16, and 17), or just 16-17, or, say, 23-24).  

Before you write your answer, begin by printing your two or three stanzas out, reading carefully, and underlining words, phrases or lines that seem they might be emphasizing or developing thematic points.  Then go on to explore the language choices you have noticed, thinking as well about the different thematic functions the stanzas seem to you to have.  What work do you think these stanzas are doing? 

That investigation done, write an essay in which you explain the work you see the passage doing (its So What), being sure to explain by citing and exploring specific choices Spenser has made.  

I will use the “English 322:  Criteria for Interpretive Papers in this Class” posted on the Blackboard to evaluate your work.  We worked with those criteria in class Thursday evening; if you missed class, you should familiarize yourself with the criteria before you write. 

Papers must be typed, double spaced, 12 point type.  Limit: 1000 words.  (Strictly enforced). Hard copy due at the beginning of class on February 19. (We will be meeting at 7:00pm in Suzallo Library. As soon as I know the room, I'll send an email to you all to tell you exactly where.)

February 14

Reading: The Faerie Queene IV,5-6.

Writing: Especially with your reading of the RWEA essay "Chaste Directions" in mind, identify a two to three stanza run from each of your two cantos that you think is particularly interesting in thinking its issues through. Then, pick one of those two runs and explain for it a) what you think it does for the poem, b) and how, as specifically as you can say, does it manage to accomplish that task?

February 12

Reading: The Faerie Queene IV.1,3-4. FEME, Chap 3 (Quiz)

Writing: Having read the very short essay (!) "From Private to Public: Chastity becomes Friendship" (posted on the Blackboard) pick one stanza from each of the three cantos you read for today, and explain which of the contexts outlined in this short paper you see in your chosen stanza, and how choices you see in the stanza led you to think so.

February 7 (Feb 5 is just below this entry. (I'm "beginning with the most recent first...")

Reading: The Faerie Queene III.11-12.

Writing: For Tuesday February 5 I asked you to locate a short RUN of stanzas. For tonight, I myself will give you a choice of such runs, and ask you to spend part of the class period writing about one such run. This will be a mini-midterm. This is a warm up for the midterm that will be due on February 19. We'll do it in class so we can talk about it before and after you write it. (I have moved this exercise from Tuesday, when it was originally scheduled, to Thursday.)

February 5

Reading: The Faerie Queene III.7-8. I have also posted on the RWEA page a link to an essay on reading the FQ, and especially Books 3 and 4. I highly recommend that you read the first four sections now, and the whole of the essay by the time we've finished Book IV. (The last section in particular does a little give away what happens in Book IV Canto 6--which is why I suggest that you hold off on it until we've read those cantos. But read ahead if you'd like.)

Writing: We've been looking at Stanza and lines--but for these two cantos I want you to pick a short RUN of stanzas. Pick two or three that seem to be a little group in the same way the four stanzas we looked at from near the end of Book III were a group. Identify which stanzas you identify, and take a chance on exploring them. Think now not just about what you like in them, but also what you think their function is and what you see in the stanzas that makes you think so. You can block and paste stanzas from:

January 31

Reading: The Faerie Queene III.4-6.

Writing: Spenser critic Paul Alpers famously said the units of meaning in TFQ are the line and the canto. So let's test his theory. For each of the three cantos you read, pick ONE line each (or two if necessary) that you think does something particularly interesting for the canto, and explain what you think each does.

January 29

Reading: Spenser's Faerie Queene, Book 3, Cantos 1 and 2. I've also posted a short essay to the Blackboard called "Reading Spenser." It offers some preliminary ideas that we'll be using to explore Spenser's world. As I said in class at our first meeting, this poetry is fun to read, but seems pretty helter-skelter until you've learned the ropes a bit. It isn't as densely crafted as sonnets tend to be, but there's still a lot to learn how to do.

Writing: That said, the assignment for Tuesday is to locate one stanza in each of the first two cantos that you like--any stanza, and for any reason at all. Maybe it's the way a line sounds, maybe it's an image that seems particularly cool. Maybe it's just a nice piece of action. Type out each or your two stanzas, and explain what you like about first one and then the other. To the extent you can use What, Why and So What, go ahead. But you may find yourself a little at sea to begin with, so don't worry much about how "interpretive" you find yourself able to be.

As background: the third book is about the adventures of Britomart, knight of Chastity. She cross-dresses--looks just like a male knight. So she's a little unusual. The opening canto, after a few set up adventures, takes her to Castle Joyeous, the house of Malecasta--which is Latin for "Badly Chaste." Scholars argue a bit about whether that means she is Chaste, but badly so, or whether she is unchaste (how could you be badly chaste and not be unchaste?!). You can decide what you think.

Canto 2 tells the story of how Britomart came to be riding around playing knight in the first place. It is all very Freudian--including a classic Electra complex moment. It's all (one of my students once said) like Disney on steroids.

January 24

Reading: More Sonnets; FEME, Chap 1. (Quiz)

Writing: Of the sonnets we didn't get to last time, pick one on which to try a "functional analysis." (Re-read the So What section of Thumbplunging) Look for what's and why's, and then formulate a claim about what you think the poem's function is. What is it trying to do? What is its project? (This may seem a little strange at first--not to worry. You'll get the hang of it soon enough!)

January 22

Reading: Elizabethan Sonnets (Handout) RWEA: Section III (Quiz)

Writing: Pick ONE of the sonnets you have read. Identify in that sonnet 3 What's, and suggest, as fully as you can, 3 Why's for your 3 What's. Finish by describing in a sentence what you think the poem's "project" might be.

January 17

Reading: Marlowe, Faustus--the rest--and "Humanist Knowing" ( Blackboard )

Writing: In your assigned scene, locate a speech, or a part of a speech, of 10-15 lines you find of interest. Type out the speech, and then explain What you have noticed in the lines that interested you, and explore Why you think Marlowe wrote the speech the way he did. What do you think he is trying to do with these lines?

January 15

Reading: More's Utopia; RWEA, Sections I and II. Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, Scenes 1-4.

Writing: You are a particularly humorless counsellor in King Henry VIII's court. You read More's Utopia. You are shocked by some of the things you see, but others sound pretty good to you. You prepare a short memo for the King in which you advise him about one measure to adopt, and one to skip, explaining both what More's text argues in favor of the potential reforms you discuss, and why you yourself support or resist a given measure.