Ben Jonson and His World Professor Wheatley

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ENGL 387

Ben Jonson and His World

Professor Wheatley

This course will focus on the life, works, and literary fortunes of Ben Jonson (1572-1637). Rivaling his fellow-playwright William Shakespeare in his comic artistry (and far surpassing Shakespeare in his explicit representation of life in early modern London), Jonson worked in court, playhouse, and printing house to make a name for himself as England's first poet laureate. The study of his plays, poems, and masques provides insight into the dynamics of social and political change that were shaping early modern English society; study of Jonson's critical reception in turn illuminates key facets of an English literary tradition. We will be reading an extensive array of works by Jonson, as well as selected works by his critics and admirers, including poems by the self-identified "Sons of Ben" and reflections on his continued relevance by contemporary literary scholars, poets, and directors. This course is research-intensive.

REQUIRED TEXTS (Trinity College Bookstore):

Hacker, Pocket Style Manual

Donaldson, Ben Jonson: A Life (Oxford 978-0199697472)

Jonson, Five Plays (Oxford; 9780199555772)

Jonson, Epicene (Revels; 978-0719078385)

Jonson, Masques of Difference (Revels; 978-0719057540)

Jonson, Complete Poems (Penguin, 978-0140422771)

*Selected Poems by Herrick, Lovelace, Carew

The specific print editions cited above are required for the course.
Grade Breakdown

10% Participation

10% Quizzes

30% 5 Analytic Assignments

10% Library Assignment, Annotated Bibliography (15 sources), Review Essay (3 sources), Thesis Proposal (5 pages) and Project Presentation

25% Final Essay (15-20 pages)

15% Final Exam (cumulative)

Reading/Writing/Assignment Schedule
9/6 Introduction

9/8 Donaldson, Chapters 1-3 (1-57)

from Complete Poems:

“Why I Write Not of Love” (95)

“My Picture Left in Scotland” (140)

“Inviting a Friend to Supper” (70)

9/13 Donaldson, Chapters 4-8 (58-174)

Selections from Complete Poems (see below)

Quiz #1

XIV “To William Camden” (39)

XCV “To Sir Henry Savile” (67)
Social Climbing

XI “On Something, That Walks Somewhere” (37)

XV “On Court-Worm” (39)

XCII “The New Cry” (64)

9/14 Analysis #1 – post to Moodle by midnight

9/15 Selections from Complete Poems:


XVI “To Brain-Hardy”

CVII “To Captain Hungry” (73)

CVIII “To True Soldiers” (74)


XXIX “To Sir Annual Tilter” (43)

Gathered Selves

LXXXV “To Sir Henry Goodyere” (61)

“An Epistle Answering to One that Asked to be Sealed of the Tribe of Ben” (191)
9/20 Donaldson, Chapter 9 (175-92)

Sejanus (1603)

Quiz #2

9/21 Analysis #2 – post to Moodle by midnight

9/22 Sejanus

9/27 Donaldson, Chapters 10-11 (193-234)

Masque of Blackness (1604)

Volpone (1606)

Quiz #3

9/28 Analysis #3 – post to Moodle by midnight

9/29 Volpone

10/4 Volpone (Barish and Legatt)

10/6 Donaldson, Chapter 12-13 (235-270)

Masque of Queens (1609)

Britain’s Burse (1609)


Quiz #4
10/11 Library Session

10/12 Analysis #4 – post to Moodle by midnight

10/13 Epicene (Teague and Levin)

10/17 Library Assignment Due
10/18 Alchemist (1610)

Quiz #5

10/19 Analysis #5 – post to Moodle by midnight

10/20 Alchemist

10/25 Alchemist

10/27 Bartholomew Fair (1614)

Quiz #6
11/1 Bartholomew Fair

11/3 Bartholomew Fair

Annotated Bibliography Due
11/8 Donaldson, Chapter 14 (271-303)

“To Penshurst” (Complete Poems, 95)

Quiz #7

11/10 Donaldson, Chapter 15-16 (304-348)

Looking at the Folio (1616)
11/15 Epigrammes

Quiz #8

11/17 Review Essay Due
Thanksgiving Break
11/29 Donaldson, Chapter 17 (349-381)

“An Execration upon Vulcan”

“To the Memory of My Beloved, The Author, Master William Shakespeare”

Quiz #9

12/1 Donaldson, Chapter 18 (382-398)

The Gypsies Metamorphos’d


Quiz #10

Proposal for Final Essay Due
12/6 Donaldson, Chapter 19-20 (399-441)

Sons of Ben (Herrick, Carew, Lovelace)

Quiz #11


12/8 Presentations and Review for Final Exam
12/15 12-3 p.m. Final Exam

Final Essay Due

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