Spring 2018 - ENGL 310 E100

Studies in Early Modern Literature to 1660 (4)

Class Number: 1507

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 5:30 PM – 7:20 PM
    BLU 10031, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 12, 2018
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    WMC 3210, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Two 100 division English courses, and two 200 division English courses.



The study of non-Shakespearean Early Modern Literature. May be defined by genre, theme, or author.



This course will focus on desire in early modern English literature while attending to contemporaneous ideas of the body, identity, and sexuality. We will not read Shakespeare, but we will consider many of his literary predecessors, contemporaries, and immediate successors, including Christopher Marlowe, John Donne, Philip Massinger, John Fletcher, Katherine Phillips, Margaret Cavendish, Andrew Marvell, and Richard Crashaw.  

The course will begin with a focus on the amorphous boundaries of the early modern body. We will learn about humour theory (melancholy, not Seinfeld), “scientific” anatomy, one-sex models of gender, and ideas of femininity and masculinity that contrast with our current Western conceptions. Next, the course will read desire in a variety of literary forms, ranging from Reformation (16th century) prose tracts that solicit consummation with the divine to Restoration (17th century) lyrical verse that envisions desire in botanical and vegetative terms. Within this timeframe, we will attend to ecstasy, friendship, homoeroticism, cross-dressing, goat-footed satyrs, sapphism, beards, tribades and fundaments, “vegetable love” (to quote Andrew Marvell), and many other concepts, ideas, and body parts that will surprise and intrigue you.  

Students will emerge from the course with a stronger understanding of early modern bodies, identities, and sexualities. Students will also emerge with new favourite writers (in early modern England) whose names do not begin with ‘S’ and almost rhyme with “a pear.” Our discussions will always place desire in the context of its historical moment, and thus students will learn about the emergence of anatomy theatres, the evolution of “sodomy law,” censorship at public theatres, nascent theories of the reproductive life of plants, and religious passion in a variety of guises. Finally, we will witness an array of artwork of the period, from anatomy pamphlets to paintings and statues, to help us envision the contested contours of desire in early modern England.


  • Attendance and participation 10%
  • Reading quizzes (5) 5%
  • History Exercise 10%
  • In-class midterm (4 to 5 pages) 15%
  • Final essay (6 to 8 pages) 30%
  • Final exam 30%


History Exercise: In groups of 2-3, students are expected to provide a historical overview of one “key course concept” pertaining to early modern bodies, sexuality, or desire. I will provide a list of terms and accompanying texts from which students can make their selections. Full instructions will be provided one week before the due date, and students will have one week to complete this exercise.



Marlowe, Christopher. Edward II. Ed. Stephen Guy-Bray. New Mermaids, 2014. ISBN 1472520251

Middleton, Thomas and William Rowley. The Changeling. Ed. Michael Neill. New Mermaids, 2006. ISBN 0713668849

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html