University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

ENGL 609.62 - Golden and Brazen Worlds: The Experience of Place in early modern England

Instructor: James Ellis

Course Description

This course will bring together phenomenological approaches and the current critical interest in place in early modern England, to explore the relation between real and fictional worldmaking activities. The opposition in the title comes from Sidney’s Defense of Poesie:  Nature, he argues, creates brazen worlds, whereas the poet can create golden or ideal ones.  We will begin by exploring this key statement of literary theory, looking in particular at how Sidney imagines the reader’s relation to this golden world of literature, and what he imagines the effect of this relation to be.  From there, we will use a range of contemporary approaches to explore various cultural forms in Elizabethan and early Tudor England whose workings hinge upon the interpenetration or layering of fictional and real worlds, including: the landscape entertainment, the commercial stage, and epic poetry.  In order to explore these relations, we will be reading different approaches to place, memory, objects, and time, including: Bruce R. Smith’s historical phenomenology; Mikhail Bakhtin on chronotopes; Bruno Latour on polytemporality and objects; and Paul Connerton on social memory. 

Readings (subject to revision):

Sidney, Philip.  The Defense of Poesie [plus Plato and Aristotle on mimesis]

Robert Langham, A Letter

Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book VI

Excerpts from:

John Nichols, ed. Progresses of Elizabeth

John Stow, A Survey of London 

Theory and Criticism:

Bakhtin, Mikhail, The Dialogic Imagination

Jonathan Gil Harris, Untimely Matter

Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember

Bruno LaTour, We Have Never Been Modern

Bruce R. Smith, The Acoustic World of early modern England

Reading List

      • Sidney, Philip. The Defense of Poesie
      • Sidney, Philip. Arcadia.
      • Robert Langham, A Letter
      • Anon, Arden of Faversham
      • Ben Jonson, The Alchemist

Excerpts from:

      • John Nichols, ed. Progresses of Elizabeth
      • John Stow, A Survey of London
      • Michael Drayton, The Poly-Albion: A Chorographical Description of Great Britain
      • William Harrison, The Description of England
      • John Leland, A Learned and True Assertion of...Prince Arthure (trans. Robinson)


      • Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination
      • Tim Cresswell, Place: an Introduction[or something more advanced]

Secondary Criticism:

    • Julie Sanders, Cultural Geography of Early Modern Drama
    • Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood
    • Lawrence Manley, Literature and Culture in Early Modern London