Fall 2008


Listed in: English, as ENGL-95


David R. Sofield (Section 04)
Richard P. Wilbur (Section 04)


The years from about 1595, when John Donne appears to have written his first poems, to the death of John Milton in 1674 saw the richest flourishing of both lyric and epic poetry in post-medieval English. Critics do not seriously argue with this claim, however fond they may be of individual poets in later centuries. The question for us is: what makes this body of work so persuasive and moving some 350 years later? We will read in detail the poems, and some of the prose, of Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, and Milton. Herbert and Marvell, we know, are indebted to the example of Donne, while Milton and Marvell served as close colleagues in the Commonwealth government, and Marvell contributed a major tribute-poem to the 1674 edition of Paradise Lost. All four writers participated in and were shaped by critical public events: the continuing and often violent struggle over what forms religion would take in England, the Civil War of the 1640s, the republican experiment from 1649 to 1660, the restoration of the monarchy in that year. We will read, therefore, some of the critical, scholarly, and historical literature that pertains to the four poets. Although an English Studies seminar, students (post-first-year) not majoring in English are also welcome. Two class meetings per week. Fall semester. Professor Sofield. Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.