Special Topic: Renaissance Poetry


The course deals with arguably the greatest age of English poetry, the period of Shakespeare and his successors, writing in the late sixteenth century and the seventeenth. It looks at the sonnet sequence of Sir Philip Sidney, the precursor of Shakespeare's own sonnets, which, in their turn, are studied in considerable detail. It also considers the wit and naughtiness of John Donne as well as his meditational poetry, the quiet skill of George Herbert's sacred verse, the social poetry of Andrew Marvell, and finally the shorter poetry of John Milton, although some work will also be done on Paradise Lost. Women's writing, in very different poems by the audacious and controversial Aphra Behn and the quiet wit of Katherine Philips, is an added pleasure.

The aim of the course is to provide students with a range of skills for reading early modern poetry.  In order to do this it is often necessary to relate the poems studied to a variety of literary, social and cultural contexts, always bearing in mind that poetry is likely to be the most important context for any particular poem we read.  So, the more reading you can do in the poetry of the period the better.  We think it equally important, however, that students not only be instructed in the poetry of the period, but that they enjoy it.  You will become very familiar with the poets of the period – and remember them with pleasure.



Course work plus exam

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022




Norton Anthology of English Poetry.  

Supplementary texts will be provided when necessary.


ENGLISH 351: 15 points


30 points at Stage II in English