English 250, section 1: Religion and Poetry in Early Modern England

Instructor: Professor David Marno

What does it mean to speak to God through a sonnet? Why would someone retell the story of the Biblical Fall in verse? Why rewrite the Psalms in rhyme royal? In this course, we’ll read sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious poetry along with their source texts and contexts in order to answer such questions. We’ll keep a dual focus throughout: what makes religious poetry a fascinating object for study is precisely that it is both poetry and religion, that it reflects the irreverent creativity of poetry as well as the fidelity that early modern Christianity demands from its practitioners. In the strange cooperation of poetry and religion, both are often forced to show their unknown faces and hidden tendencies; our main goal in the course is to notice the moments when religious poetry tells us something new about poetic invention or religious belief. Authors include Petrarch, Thomas Wyatt, Anne Lock, Edmund Spenser, Philip and Mary Sidney, John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, and John Milton.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills the elective requirement for the DE in REMS.