College of Humanities and Social Sciences

ENGH 421: Topics in Medieval and Renaissance Literature

ENGH 421-001: Renaissance Makerspaces
(Spring 2017)

Krug Hall 210

Section Information for Spring 2017

The expansion of makerspaces over the last few years (including one at Mason) reflects enthusiasm for technical innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Renaissance has similarly been defined in part by a new enthusiasm for innovation and the human ability to create.  But there are differences between the Renaissance and our current cultural moment as well.  For one thing, poetry was also considered a kind of making, and poets at the time were sometimes called makers, a name for the poet celebrated by Renaissance authors such as Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson.

 In this course we'll consider both Renaissance poetry as a kind of making and that poetry's relationship to other kinds of making in the Renaissance--from clothing and ornaments to inventions, societies, and worlds.  We'll also consider how and why the distance between making poetry and making things has expanded over time.  Along these lines, we'll look at some contemporary accounts of making, such as theories of "design thinking."  Tentative list of Renaissance authors studied include George Gascoigne, Philip Sidney, Samuel Daniel, William Shakespeare, John Donne, William Herbert, Andrew Marvell, and Margaret Cavendish.

This course will also be about Renaissance makerspaces in a second respect. In addition to traditional literary critical writing assignments, students in this class, working in groups, will all participate in making the kind of objects more associated with contemporary makerspaces.  Possible projects (we will likely develop others) include an online or physical edition of an as-yet unedited Renaissance text, a data visualization of some linguistic aspect of a Renaissance text, a computer program illustrating Renaissance fencing moves, or a Renaissance "conceit," which was not only the word, as it still is, for an extended metaphor, but also an elaborate and usually iconic or allegorical scene crafted out of marzipan and meant to be eaten (click on video to learn more).  Students might make such a scene themselves, either edible or made on Mason's new 3-D printer.


Scholarly Inquiry


Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Studies selected topics, genres, themes or authors in medieval or Renaissance literature and culture.

Equivalent to HIST 431 (2015-2016 Catalog)/FRLN 431.


May be taken for credit by English or history majors. Specific topic may vary. Primary emphasis is literary or historical, depending on discipline of instructor. May consider relevant material from philosophy, theology, and art. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits when topic is different.

The University Catalog is the authoritative source for information on courses. The Schedule of Classes is the authoritative source for information on classes scheduled for this semester. See the Schedule for the most up-to-date information and see Patriot web to register for classes.

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