Sixteenth-century English
Poetry and Prose

BAC 203
T, Th: 10:00 - 11:30 AM

Prof. Richard Cunningham
Office: BAC 431
Office Hours: T,Th,F 11:30 - 12:30, and by appt.

Acknowledgement of Traditional Territory:

We are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.



Course Description

Our goal in this course is to gain some exposure to literature written in English in the sixteenth century: the century during which Henry VIII reigned and died, after having founded the Anglican Church and executed, among others, Sir Thomas More. It is the century during which Elizabeth I was born and ascended the throne. It is the century during which the Petrarchan form rose to prominence in English poetry. It is the century of Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare, to name only the most famous of the literary and philophical greats of the period. I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the foregoing list is distressingly male-centred. Our anthology will make it possible for us to read some work written by sixteenth-century English women, too, but in truth as this course unfolds we will spend more time on the works of male than of female authors.



Course Text

The course text is very much REQUIRED. You will be expected to have your copy with you and open in front of you in every class. A sizable percentage of your grade for the course is based on your daily participation, which will include you reading from the text when called on to do so.

The Broadview Anthology of Sixteenth-century Poetry and Prose. Eds. Loughlin, Marie H., Sandra Bell, and Patricia Brace. Broadview Press, 2012.


Accessible Learning Services

If you are a student with documentation for accommodations who anticipates needing supports or accommodations, please contact Marissa McIsaac, Accessibility Resource Facilitator at 902-585-1520, or Emily Duffett, Accessibility Officer, 902-585-1823, Accessible Learning Services is located in Rhodes Hall, rooms 111-115.




Grade weight
Date due
Nota bene
Attendance and Participation
Every class
Okay, no one makes it to every class, but there are 25 classes this term. Missing more than two means you've missed more than 10% of the term. Your grade will suffer DISproportionately if you miss often. It is worth noting too that if the professor struggles to remember your name by the end of September you are probably not ace-ing the "Participation" category.
Daily Reading Responses
Every class
Before 8:00 AM every class day you are required to submit, via Acorn, a response worthy of classroom discussion on the day's reading(s). These should be about a paragraph in length. (Is it obvious yet the professor is not fond of laziness and of people not reading the assigned texts?)
Comparison and Contrast paper
Nov. 28
This paper should be a reasonably substantial comparison of at least two of the works we read and discuss during the term. Students' favourite question is usually: "how long should it be?" and the answer is that a long paper can be insubstantial, and a very short paper is very likely to be insubstantial. The paper should demonstrate an active intelligence recognizing some basis for comparing (discussing similarities) and contrasting (discussing differences) between (at least) two works of literature. To write a substantial paper will require you to consult secondary sources: what have other people had to say about the works about which you are writing? You do not have to agree with what others have said, but you need to demonstrate an awareness of their contributions to our collective understanding of the works. Take it as a given that the works are good; we would not still be reading them and writing about them hundreds of years later if they were not good enough to reward multiple subsequent readings. So you need not tell your reader that you think the works are good, or that you really enjoyed them. In fact, doing so will hurt rather than help your grade.

Cautionary Note: Today's date is October 28, and as I read the responses to Sidney's Defence I find myself tiring of telling people to proofread their work before submitting it. By now, everyone has had a lot of writing instruction in the form of feedback on those daily reading responses. So, if I write the comment "proofread" on your comparison and contrast three times I will stop reading it at that point and simply grade the paper 0 (zero).

Final Exam
Date & Time: Th, Dec. 12: 2:00 - 5:00 PM
Location: BAC 203



How to Use MLA format

Middle English Dictionary

Oxford English Dictionary [This will only work on campus or through the Acadia VPN.]

Dictionary of National Biography. Vaughan Memorial Library Reference Collection DA28 .D45

Early English Books Online

Dictionary of National Biography



Sept. 5: Thursday
Sept. 10: Tuesday
Sept. 12: Thursday
Sept. 17: Tuesday
Sept. 19: Thursday
Margaret More Roper, Introduction and "A Devout Treatise . . ." pp. 79 - 84
Sept. 24: Tuesday
[The Protestant Reformation];
Anne Askew, pp. 138 - 60;
The Burning of Anne Askew
Sept. 26: Thursday
Howard, pp. 189 - 91 (six sonnets in total);
Wyatt, pp. 194 onto 195, &203 onto 204 (the sonnets are the required reading; read more if you'd like to)




Oct. 1: Tuesday
Anne Locke, Introduction (p. 210)
and Sonnets pp. 214 - 19
Oct. 3: Thursday
Isabella Whitney, pp. 377 - 98
Oct. 8: Tuesday
Elizabeth I, pp. 399 - 404
Oct. 10: Thursday
Raphael Holinshed, pp. 513 - 26
Oct. 15: Tuesday
Popular Lit. in c16th England, pp. 537 - 96; read selections from the otherings on these pages for the sake of your daily reading responses. You are not expected to read everything in this section; just get a feel for the 'popular' writing of the day.
Oct. 17: Thursday
Jane Anger, 608 - 15
Oct. 22: Tuesday
Philip Sidney, "Defence of Poetry," 713 - 39
Oct. 24: Thursday
Philip Sidney, "Defence of Poetry," 713 - 39
Oct. 29: Tuesday
Fall break - no class
Oct. 31: Thursday
Fall break - no class




Nov. 5: Tuesday
Spenser, Sonnets 1, 6, 9, 16, 34, 64, 80 (pp 803 - 8)
Nov. 7: Thursday
Spenser, Faerie Queene, Cantos 1 & 2
Fradubio, maybe?
Nov. 12: Tuesday
Faerie Queene, Cantos 3 & 4
Nov. 14: Thursday
Faerie Queene, Cantos 5 & 6
Nov. 19: Tuesday
Faerie Queene, Cantos 7 & 8
Nov. 21: Thursday
Faerie Queene, Cantos 9 & 10
Nov. 26: Tuesday
Faerie Queene, Cantos 11 & 12
Nov. 28: Thursday
Ralegh, A Vision upon this Conceit of “The Faerie Queene”, “If all the world and love were young”,
and Marlowe handout




Dec. 3: Tuesday
Spenser, Conclusion
Dec. 5: Thursday
Review & Exam Preview