AU: 4.0
Programme: ELH(HSS)

The term 'renaissance,' meaning 'rebirth', was popularized by Jacob Burckhardt in the 19th century, and has since then been inseparable from the idea that a new kind of European individual emerged between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, along with humanism, capitalism, Protestantism, empirical science and European imperialism. Burckhardt was writing about Catholic Italy, however, and the individuals this course will examine lived in England, under absolutist Tudor and Stuart monarchs, during a time when the Protestant reformation was giving rise to new democratic ideologies. These writers witnessed the systematic demolition of English Catholicism, and of the feudal society that it entailed, by Henry VIII and his children. The ensuing tension between monarchy and democracy resulted in the English civil war, a conflict which produced, among other things, Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost. The texts chosen for this course demonstrate that, despite the excitement produced by new discoveries in art, science and geography, the emotion of loss suffuses the literature of the century leading up to the civil war, and this must qualify any notion that the history of the English renaissance is an unambiguous progress-narrative. Rather, it is a period fraught with contradictions, contradictions that enabled the production of some unique works of literary art.