March 1: Sidney and Personification

In many of his sonnets, Sidney personifies concepts such as “Love,” “Desire,” and “Virtue.” What is the effect of personifying these ideas? Does it emphasize the effects of emotions of the speaker? Does it elevate the importance of the concept to that of a universal truth? Or does it shift the source of the emotions from the speaker to an origin outside of the speaker, reducing him to a more passive role?

February 25th: Sir Thomas Wyatt and his reflections in poetry.


As noted in the introductory materials, Sir Thomas Wyatt experienced a variety of ups and downs in his life from serving as a valued member in King Henry’s court to serving a prison sentence in the Tower of London.  In what ways does his poetry reflect the ups and downs experienced in his life?  Is there a dominant tone in his poetry, or does his poetry reveal some sort of ambivalence consistent with his life’s experiences?

February 25th: Courtly Love and the Early Modern Lyric

Our textbook claims, “The influence of Petrarch’s sonnet sequence, about his unfulfilled love for Laura, was immense, and provided European love poets with a way to shape the erotic experience in terms of frustration, self-scrutiny, self-division, praise, and longing and to express this through elaborate metaphor, paradox, and an intense focus on detail.” How do the tradition of courtly love and the influences of Petrarch present themselves within the early sonnets of Wyatt, Surrey, Daniel, and Drayton? In other words, how do these poets portray love and the idea of courtship? How are their portrayals similar to or different from Petrarch’s?

Feb 18: The Second Shepherd’s Play

Throughout the play, the “Wakefield Master” uses many anachronisms, or attributes belonging to a period other than that in which it is currently being employed. For example, the second shepherd refers to “him that died for us all,” and the first shepherd makes note of “the rood” (107, 185). What is the purpose of making these conspicuous references? How do they relate to the contrast between the absurdly comedic beginning of the story versus the traditional, biblical ending of the play describing when they first see Christ?

February 16: Margery Kempe’s Book 1

Margery’s writing reveals how spirituality is centered in her life. What do you find to be significant about her and her work? How does she make her spiritual experiences physical and make her physical experiences spiritual? She seems to often suffer for Christ; what is Margery’s relationship with suffering (whether it be her own or her views on the suffering of others)?

February 16: Julian of Norwich

In chapter 60 of “A Revelation of Love,” Julian of Norwich calls Jesus “our mother.” How does she compare the way that a mother feeds a child and how “Mother Jesus” feeds us? What do you think about this comparison? (i.e., does it differ from current views of Jesus, do you think that this view of hers has anything to do with her being a woman, etc.)

Feb. 16 – Julian of Norwich

In Chapter 51, Julian of Norwich describes an example that God has shown her of a lord and his servant, meant to mirror the relationship of God and Adam, the representation of al men. How does Julian interpret this vision? How does she believe that God views all men, and how does she view her particular relationship with God? Does this revelation make an impact on her overall interpretation of God in later chapters?