Sixteenth Century Literature (W15)

EN 393
Sixteenth Century Literature

DAWB 2-101

MWF 10:30-11:20

Winter 2015

Dr. Andrew Bretz

Office: 3-127

Office Hours: M 11:30-16:00

Phone: 519-884-0710, ext. 4461


Skype Office Hours: By Appointment

Twitter: @AndrewBretz001

Facebook ID: andrew.bretz

“We acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of ‎ the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples.”

Course Description

The Tudor period saw titanic shifts in the intellectual and political culture of England as the effects of Renaissance Humanism began to be felt in northern Europe. Writers such as Erasmus and Sir Thomas More articulated an understanding of the category of “the human” based on classical Greek and Roman models, deploying rhetorical strategies such as humour to deflate the perceived self-importance of both pope and king. At the same time, Luther and other church reformers were calling for a wholesale abandonment of traditional church and political structures, in favour of a model of authority where hermeneutic authority lay with the individual. Finally, increasing literacy levels across all levels of society allowed people to engage in pan-European cultural and religious debates for the first time.

One result of these changes is the ways in which the humanist category of “the human” and the Reformation’s devolution of authority to “the individual” presupposed those categories to be essentially masculine, thereby alienating women from participation in the creation of public culture. Indeed, both intellectual humanism and the Reformation were deployed as ideological justifications for the domestication of women within the patriarchal household. Maid, wife, and crone became the only sanctioned forms of self-identity over the course of the period. Despite this attempt over the course of the sixteenth century to limit the self-expression of women to a handful of chaste and patriarchally governed identities, women across social classes constructed self-representations that subtly or overtly challenged patriarchal hegemony. Women such as Margaret More Roper and Lady Jane Lumley wrote subtle indictments of the patriarchal household that would emerge over the course of the 1500s; Through an accident of history and genetics, a succession of women ascended to the English throne, thereby querying what it meant to be a “prince;” finally, women as diverse as Jane Anger and Lady Mary Sidney Herbert interrogated the relationship between the categories of “masculinity” and “authority.”

Finally, masculine anxiety over the resistance of women to merely submit to patriarchal household rule can be seen in the popularity of the sonnet form, which, although introduced to England in the court of Henry VIII, really became popular in the latter years of Elizabeth I’s reign. Characteristic elements of the sonnet form, such as the blazon, the male gaze, and the homosocial erotics of patronage all point to the exclusion of the feminine from the poeto-political discourse.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the major writers and themes of writing in sixteenth century England;
  2. Deploy the correct terminology when performing literary analysis of a given text (e.g. correctly defining “sonnet” as opposed to “blank verse”);
  3. Be able to summarize the arguments used by select major writers of the sixteenth century regarding
    1. The Household,
    2. Patriarchal Governance,
    3. Religion,
    4. The Role of the Prince,
    5. The Possibility of Subversive Feminine Identities,
    6. Masculine Desire;
  4. Design a major research paper/project investigating any aspect of sixteenth century English literary culture.

Required Texts

The Broadview Anthology of Sixteenth-Century Poetry and Prose. Eds. Marie H. Loughlin, Sandra Bell, & Patricia Brace. Peterborough, ON: Broadview P, 2012.


Governance, the Household, and Education January 5


  • Historical Overview
  • Theoretical Overview
January 7

Historical Overview

  • Key to Authors/Texts
January 9

Humanist Governance: The More Household: William Roper


Governance, the Household, and Education January 12

  • Margaret More Roper: Translation, Education, Humanism
January 14

Thomas More Utopia

  • Reading: lines 2005-4240
  • Suggested Reading: pages 10-78
January 16

Thomas More Utopia

  • Reading: lines 2005-4240
  • Suggested Reading: pages 10-78


Governance, the Household, and Education January 19

Humanism & Patriarchy: An Overview

January 21

Juan Luis Vives The Instruction of a Christian Woman


January 23

Sacrificing Daughters: Lady Jane Lumley



Religion, Politics, and Princes January 26

The Protestant Reformation: An Overview

January 28

Devotion, Heresy, and the Protestant Reformation: Anne Askew & John Foxe

138-160, 220-225

January 30

Witchcraft: Legal and Popular Discourses



Religion, Politics, and Princes February 2

The Prince, Femininity, and Punishment: An Overview

February 4

John Knox

The First Blast of the Trumpet


February 6

“The Body of a Weak and Feeble Woman…”Elizabeth I & Katherine Parr

163, 399-404

Popular Culture February 9

Popular Culture:

Pamphlets of Murder and Mayhem

The Monstrous Children Broadsides


February 11

Popular Culture:

Pamphlets of Murder and Mayhem

The Monstrous Children Broadsides


February 13


Feminine Identities February 23

Condemned Power: Lady Jane Grey & Mary, Queen of Scots

226-234, 306-308

February 25

Condemned Power: Lady Jane Grey & Mary, Queen of Scots

226-234, 306-308

February 27

Isabella Whitney: Autobiography and Feminine Self-Presentation


Feminine Identities March 2

Jane Anger


March 4

Patron, Muse, Creator: Mary Sidney Herbert



March 6

Shoulder Day

(No Readings)

Sonnets March 9

Sonnets – The Birth of the Form

(No Readings)

March 11

Tottel’s Miscellany: Surrey & Wyatt


March 13

Sidney Astrophil & Stella


Sonnets March 16

Sidney Astrophil & Stella


March 18

Shakespeare’s Sonnets



March 20

Shakespeare’s Sonnets


Sonnets March 23

Spenser’s Amoretti


March 25

Research Seminar

March 27

Writing Seminar

March 30

Research Days – No Classes

April 1

Research Days – No Classes

April 3

GOOD FRIDAY – No Classes

April 6





Final Research Project Midterm Quizzes Research and Writing Seminars Participation
40 30 20 5 5


Final Research Project


3000-4000 words.

The final research project must show engagement with the contemporary discourse regarding your particular topic of Renaissance studies. Scholarly research here includes (but is not limited to) peer reviewed journal articles, books, websites, conference proceedings, interviews, scholarly blogs (e.g., primary documents, dramaturgical notes, introductions to scholarly editions, etc. As this assignment is, in part, fulfilling the reading-intensive requirement of this course, you must have at least five sources for your project.

The topic is at your discretion, the thesis is at your discretion. As a general guideline, at the very latest by Reading Week, you should have a research question that you want to ask, such that you can research that question throughout the course. (Seriously, it is amazing how many students try to do a research paper without first considering a research question that they want to answer. Think of a question by Reading Week at the latest to be ahead of the game.) If you have troubles formulating a research question, please see either me or talk to the research librarian for the course. I highly recommend that you speak to me at least once before the end of the semester about your field of research.

Please note the course guide that is available through the course website, put together by the course research librarian, which will help facilitate your research.

The paper must be presented in accordance to MLA guidelines.  The due date for the essay is the final day of classes (April 6), with papers to be returned to students who wish to recover them during the exam period, no less than two weeks after the last day of classes. Papers must be handed in via the online dropbox. Hard copies will not be accepted. Those who wish their papers returned to them must indicate so on their papers and make arrangements with me to get the paper back to them prior to handing in their paper. Please see the course website for a general rubric.



The midterm exam will be in class and consist of short answer questions, where student’s knowledge of the history of the period, literary conventions, and generic issues will be tested.  You will have one (1) class period to complete the exam.  If a student has not prearranged an alternate time to take the midterm exam and does not attend the exam during the scheduled time, they will receive a 0% on the exam.  “Prearranged” shall here be taken to mean more than 24 hours in advance.

Online Quizzes


At the end of the four main modules in this course (Governance, the Household, and Education; Religion, Politics, and Princes; Feminine Identities; Sonnets) will be an online quiz, each worth 5% of your final grade. Each quiz will consist of 10-20 multiple choice or matching questions and be open book. Students may take the quiz at any time in the week immediately following the final class on that module. (For example, students may challenge the quiz on the Governance, the Household, and Education module anytime from 00:01 23 January 2015 to 23:59 29 January 2015.) Be mindful of the time – you have only a week to get it done. Quizzes will cover material discussed in class and material in the texts.

Seminar Participation


Research Seminar Participation

The Research Seminar will be conducted by the research librarian for this course on 25 March 2015 in anticipation of the Final Research Project. For the Research Seminar, you must come prepared with a research question or a statement of research goals. Be prepared to talk about it and to share resources that you have discovered with other students.

Writing Seminar Participation

The Writing Seminar will be conducted on 27 March in anticipation of the Final Research Project. For the Writing Seminar, you must come prepared with a paragraph of your paper in hand, ready to analyze both your own work and the work of other students for clarity, concision, complexity of thought, logical fallacies, grammatical errors, and other common stylistic faults.




Participation in weekly Five Minute Papers (see below) will be comprise this grade. Class participation grade will be completely at the discretion of the instructor.

Participation: Five Minute Papers

Five minute papers will be administered on the dates outlined above.  They will be short responses, either in point form or whatever form the student chooses.  These papers will ask students a question about the text or about a term of analysis that we have covered in class.  Further, these papers will ask students to come up with a question about the text at hand.  In other words, every other week or so, as you read a new text, you must come up with a single question about the text to put into the five minute paper.  These questions could be questions that you have regarding the text that are still left unanswered after the lectures, or they could be suggestions for possible questions/topics for the final take home exam, or they could be something else related to the class. These are designed to be an informal opportunity for students to provide feedback about the course and to improve knowledge retention.  Full marks requires having both a thoughtful answer and a thoughtful question for your papers for that date. Each paper is worth 1/5 of the class participation grade.


Submission of Assignments & Late Penalty

  • I prefer to mark blind.  Do not put your name on your assignments.  Instead, identify yourself with your Student ID number only.  This instruction always trumps MLA formatting expectations.
  • I am generally willing to give extensions to students for papers or for exams.  If you want an extension, you have to contact me at least 24 hours before the assignment is due.  Only in the case of extreme extenuating circumstances (car accidents, etc) will this rule be waived.

Addendum: Grade Review

There will not be any “make-up” assignments allowed. If you feel that you have been unfairly graded in any given assignment, I am perfectly happy to review your grade, if and only if you adhere to the following regulations.

  • You must submit a written justification for the grade review to me.
  • You must in that written justification recognize explicitly that your grade could go up or it could go down at the end of the review process.
  • The written justification must be approximately 200-300 words in length.

Notes on Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct takes many forms, not least of which is plagiarism.  Please refer to the calendar for a definition on what constitutes academic misconduct at this institution.  The following are common examples of academic misconduct and will not be tolerated in this class:

  • Harassment of fellow students or teaching staff;
  • Actions that undermine the authority of the professor to assess the class;
  • Intellectual dishonesty (Cheating, plagiarism, falsification of records);
  • Revising an assignment for re-grading, without the instructor’s knowledge and consent;
  • Giving or receiving unpermitted aid on a take-home examination;
  • Giving or receiving aid on an academic assignment under circumstances in which a reasonable person should have known that such aid was not permitted.

Any instances of academic misconduct will be taken up immediately with the administration.


Accessible Learning

Students with disabilities or special needs are advised to contact Laurier=s Accessible Learning Office for information regarding its services and resources.  Students are encouraged to review the Calendar for information regarding all services available on campus.

Academic Misconduct

Wilfrid Laurier University uses software that can check for plagiarism,  Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form and have it checked for plagiarism.

FOOT Patrol

After evening classes call 886-FOOT for a walk or drive home – No Walk is Too Short or Too Long!!!