Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

ENGLISH 3RL6B Renaissance Lit and Culture

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Mary Silcox


Office: Chester New Hall 330

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27314

Office Hours: Monday 2:30-3:30pm, Thursdays 2:30-3:30pm, or by appointment

Course Objectives:


This exploration of British literature begins mid-16th century and carries through to the 3rd quarter of the 17th century, one of the most transformative and culturally vibrant periods in western history. New ideas about religion, science, the state, society, the larger world, individual identity, love, and literature were sweeping England. The writings of the time reflect, document, and inspire these new ways of thinking and being. The first half of the course will focus mainly on works from Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, when the rule of a female monarch brought gender issues to the fore, a nascent nationalism was emerging, and English society was growing ever more complex. The second half of the course continues from the turn of the century, to the chaos of the civil wars of the mid-century, to the reflections of Milton following the return of the monarchy.


By the end of this course students should be able to read actively and think critically; discuss and take positions on the issues raised in the course; absorb information and work imaginatively with it; and communicate clearly in both writing and speech.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Volume 2, The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century, Joseph Black et al, eds. Third edition. Students must bring the text to every class.


Method of Assessment:


Participation in Regular Class Discussion                                       10%

Term 1 In-class Quizzes                                                                   5%

Term 1 Take-home Test, handed out Oct. 19, due Oct. 26               5%

Term 1 Essay (2000 words) due Nov. 30                                         15%

December Exam on Term 1 Texts                                                     20%

Term 2 In-class Quizzes                                                                    5%

Term 2 Research Essay (2500 words) due Mar. 28                          20% 

April Exam on Term 2 Texts                                                              20% 


In the first week of classes students should make sure they have access to Avenue to Learn for this class. Extra information, descriptions of assignments, and student discussion will be available on it. If you find you are not on the list, please contact me as soon as possible so I can correct it.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


Take-home tests are due on the due date listed above. Tests handed in after that date will be penalized 2% per day, and after 1 week no test will be accepted.

Essays are due in class and on 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:


(NOTE: These dates are somewhat flexible; not all works will be studied in equal detail)

Sept. 6, 7 - Introduction: Read Broadview Introductory material (pp. XLVII to XCVIII and pp. 1134-1153).

Sept. 11, 13 - Baldassare Castiglione & Thomas Hoby: The Courtier (pp.167-182)

Sept. 14, 18 - Philip Sidney: The Defence of Poesy (pp. 330-331, 341-369)

Sept. 20, 21, 25 - Elizabethan Sonnet and Lyric Introduction (pp. 127-128)

                        Thomas Wyatt: p. 129 #189; pp. 113-116 #31, #80, #94

                        Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: pp. 122-125 “So Cruel Prison How Could Betide”

Sept. 27, 28 - Philip Sidney: Astrophel and Stella, #1, 2, 7, 31, 41 (p. 332 ff.)

October 2, 4, 5 - William Shakespeare: Sonnets, #18, 20, 73, 116, 129, 130, 144 (pp. 647-51, p. 675 ff.)

October 9-13 – Thanksgiving & Reading Week, no classes

Oct. 16, 18 - Isabella Whitney: "The Manner of Her Will,” “The Manner of Her Will, and What She Left to London” (pp. 690, 697-702)


Oct. 19, 23 - Christopher Marlowe: Hero and Leander (pp. 577-9, 580-591)

Oct. 25, 26, 30 - Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus (pp. 592-621)

Nov. 1, 2 - Elizabeth I: “The Doubt of Future Foes,” “On Monsieur’s Departure,” Poems Exchanged between Sir Walter Ralegh and Elizabeth I, “Speech to the House of Commons, 28 January 1563,” “To the Troops at Tilbury,” “The Golden Speech” (pp. 398 ff.)

Nov. 6-30 - Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queene, Letter to Sir Walter Ralegh and Book 1 (pp. 191-194, 313-316, 194-277)

Dec. 4, 6 - Walter Ralegh: The Discovery of the Large, Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guiana (pp. 458-9, 462-468)



Jan. 4, 8 - Francis Bacon: Essays, Of Truth, Of Marriage and Single Life, Of Travel, Of Plantations (p. 556 ff.)

Jan. 10-22 - John Donne: “The Good-Morrow,” “The Flea,” “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” “Elegy 19. To His Mistress Going to Bed,” “Satire 3,” Holy Sonnets 5, 10, & 14, “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward,” Devotions Meditation 17 (p. 807 ff.)

Jan. 24, 25, 29 - Ben Jonson: “On Something that Walks Somewhere,” “On My First Son,” “Inviting a Friend to Supper,” “To Penshurst” (p. 716 ff.)

Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 5 - John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi (p. 836 ff.)


Feb. 7, 8 - Aemilia Lanyer: “To the Virtuous Reader,” from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum “Invocation,” “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women,” “The Description of Cooke-ham” (p. 451 ff.)

Feb. 12, 14, 15, 26, 28 - George Herbert: “The Altar,” “Redemption,” “Easter Wings,” “Jordan (1),” “Affliction (1),” “Church Monuments,” “Love (3)” (p. 908 ff.)

February 19-23 – Reading Week, no classes

Mar. 1, 5 - Robert Herrick: “Corinna's Going A-Maying,” “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” “The Hock-Cart” (p. 902 ff.)

Mar. 7 - Katherine Philips: “A Married State,” “Upon the Double Murder of King Charles,” “Friendship's Mystery, To My Dearest Lucasia” (p. 946 ff.)

Mar. 8, 12, 14, 15 - Andrew Marvell: “A Dialogue between the Soul and Body,” “To His Coy Mistress,” “The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn,” “The Mower against Gardens,” “An Horatian Ode” (p. 921 ff.)

Mar. 19-Apr. 9 - John Milton: Paradise Lost (pp. 968-70, 990-1079)