The course seeks to introduce students to both the poetic form of the sonnet and the literary and cultural movements of the English Renaissance.  First, students will develop an understanding of poetic form and learn to analyse how poet’s use rhyme, rhythm, and structure to express complex ideas and emotions.  Second, students will learn about the evolution of the sonnet and how its formal features are both eloborated upon and challenged by succeeding poets.  Third, the course will link the sonnet to its historical context, and ask students to think about how it might be a means of expressing or challenging broader political, religious, and cultural movements.  By the end of the course, students should be able to anlayse a sonnet’s form and language and use this analysis as part of a larger argument about the poem’s use or design – be it aesthetic, personal, political, or religious.




We will meet once a week for three hours.  The class will be made up of formal lectures, group work, and class discussions.  Each week different students will present a short discussion paper on a particular sonnet.  There will also be one or two short in-class written exercises throughout the semester.




Class Attendance and Participation – 10%
In-Class Exercises and Presentations – 20%
Mid-Term Paper – 25%
Final Paper – 45%




We will study sonnets by the following poets:

Thomas Wyatt
Henry Howard
Philip Sidney
Edmund Spenser
William Shakespeare
John Donne
John Milton



Last updated: 12 July 2018