Medieval Literature: Chaucer and Spenser (online)

ENGL 4210/7210
Section 01
Lee Manion
Course Description

Edmund Spenser, the Renaissance poet, claimed to have been “infused” with the “spirit” of a medieval poet, Geoffrey Chaucer; Spenser thought that Chaucer was the “pure well head of Poesie.” How could these two poets, separated by 200 years of turbulent history (and a sea-change in the English language and religion), be related? What does it mean to claim that the medieval Chaucer was the origin of poetry and that he was reborn in a Renaissance setting and poet?

In this course we will explore various topics that concerned both writers, such as chivalry, romance, race, gender, and empire, for how they relate to each author’s concept of what poetry is and what it can do. At the same time, we will reflect upon larger questions of what is at stake in the making of a literary tradition and in the “origins” of a language while appreciating Chaucer and Spenser’s fantastical worldbuilding. Assignments include short response papers and two longer essays or the option of a creative final project to help us tease out the relationship between the two poets and think in general about the use and meaning of the past.