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ENGLISH 4RL3 Strategies Power Rnssnce Lit (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2019

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Mary Silcox


Office: Chester New Hall 330

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27314

Office Hours: Monday 10:30-12:00, Thursday 10:30-12:00, & by appointment

Course Objectives:


As Foucault says, “power is everywhere,” an everyday, socialized and embodied phenomenon: “Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart.” In this seminar we will examine the many textual faces of power, and its creative and destructive force, in a wide variety of early modern works, ranging from Queen Elizabeth I’s speeches and letters, to poetry and prose about the 17th-century civil wars, to the challenge to male authority in Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus, to broadside attempts to analyse murders and “monstrous children.” We’ll be considering topics such as concepts of power, responses to its deployment, the mechanisms by which it operates, and its discursive qualities, as these appear in 16th- and 17th-century writings. We’ll also be exploring the forms of writing that lend themselves to transmitting and questioning structures of power.


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

  1. Explain, both orally and in writing, key terms and concepts introduced in the course.
  2. Gain an introductory knowledge of the historical contexts that shaped some of the major strategies of power in early modern England.
  3. Analyse course materials by demonstrating the relationship between the theories and the cultural and literary texts.
  4. Learn to trace the larger themes, motifs, issues and questions expressed through the texts.
  5. Create clear, persuasive, and well-supported arguments, rooted in evidence from the texts.
  6. Work collaboratively.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


English 4RL3 Coursepack. Available from Dr. Silcox in first class.

Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. The Roaring Girl. Edited by Kelly Stage. Broadview             Press, 2019.

English 4RL3 Playing, Winning Losing: Strategies of Power in Renaissance Literature. Custom text     from Broadview Press, 2019.

Additional readings will be available via our Avenue to Learn course site.


Method of Assessment:


Seminar One                                                           20%

Seminar Two                                                            20%

Essay (2,000 words, due November 25)                 25%

Journal                                                                     10%

Discussion Questions                                              10%

Participation in Class Discussion                             15%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignment submission and late policies:

(a) Students are expected to retain a copy of each assignment they submit.

(b) Please submit a hard copy of each assignment in person to me and also an electronic copy, in .doc or .docx format only please, to the relevant Avenue submission folder. Emailed copies will not be accepted.

(c) Essays are due in class on the due date. I will accept essays in person only and without penalty for one week following that date. After that week is up I will not accept any essay.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Mon. Sept. 9 – Introduction                    

Mon. Sept. 16 – Discussion of theories about the negotiation of social power, and John Donne’s “Satire III.” This material will be available for you on Avenue. Please read it and be ready to discuss in this class. You may want to print it out to bring to class.

Mon. Sept. 23 – William Baldwin, A Mirror for Magistrates selections (in the custom text from Broadview Press)

Mon. Sept. 30 – Elizabeth I selections (in the custom text from Broadview Press)

Mon. Oct. 7 – John Davies, Orchestra (in the English 4RL3 Coursepack)

Mon. Oct. 14 – Fri. Oct. 18 Mid-Term Recess

Mon. Oct. 21 -- Richard Lovelace, Katherine Philips, Andrew Marvell, John Milton’s “To the Lord General Cromwell,” Alexander Brome selections (All these are in the custom text from Broadview Press.); Eikon Basilike selections, The Game at Chesse (These last two texts are in the English 4RL3 Coursepack.)

Mon. Oct. 28 – Edmund Spenser, Amoretti (selections) and Epithalamion (both in the custom text from Broadview Press), plus two sonnets that I’ll post on Avenue

Mon. Nov. 4 – Samuel Daniel, The Complaint of Rosamond (in the English 4RL3 Coursepack)                  

Mon. Nov. 11 -- Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl (separate text)          

Mon. Nov. 18 – Joseph Swetnam, The Arraignment … of women, Rachel Speght, A Mouzell for Melastomus (in the English 4RL3 Coursepack)

Mon. Nov 25 – Popular Literature in Sixteenth-Century England (in the custom text from Broadview Press)    

Mon. Dec. 2 -- John Milton, selections from Areopagitica (in the custom text from Broadview Press)