The Early Seventeenth Century section of Norton Topics Online offers an introduction to the major debates which divided England in this period: the ordering of the state, the church, and the family. In addition, the topic on Milton's Paradise Lost provides a range of contexts for the study of a literary work in which all of these conflicts are played out.

Suggested uses of Norton Topics Online: The Early Seventeenth Century with The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition (anthology page references for the new Seventh Edition are included below):

Gender, Family, Household: Seventeenth-Century Norms and Controversies

Edmund Spenser, Amoretti NAEL7.1.863
  Epithalamion NAEL7.1.868
John Donne, Songs and Sonnets and Elegies NAEL7.1.1236
Ben Jonson, The Celebration of Charis NAEL7.1.1403
  To Penshurst NAEL7.1.1399
Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus NAEL7.1.1428
John Milton, Paradise Lost NAEL7.1.1815
John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi NAEL7.1.1433
Aemilia Lanyer, To Cooke-ham NAEL7.1.1287
Andrew Marvell, Upon Appleton House NAEL7.1.1704
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night NAEL7.1.1043
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale NAEL7.1.253
Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe NAEL7.1.367
Mary Astell, Some Reflections upon Marriage NAEL7.1.2285
Daniel Defoe, Roxana NAEL7.1.2289
Doris Lessing, To Room Nineteen NAEL7.2.2303

Gender, Family, Household: Seventeenth-Century Norms and Controversies provides an introduction to early seventeenth-century assumptions and debates about gender roles and the patriarchal family. Selections drawn from English law, the marriage ceremony and advice books can be compared and contrasted with the representation of marriage in the works of Spenser, Donne, Jonson, Wroth, Milton, and Webster. A glimpse of life in the country houses of the Sidney and Clifford families provides illuminating background to "country house poems" such as Jonson's To Penshurst, Lanyer's The Description of Cooke-Ham, and Marvell's Upon Appleton House. The vehement denunciations of cross-dressing included here will open a new perspective on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Finally, students will have the opportunity to compare seventeenth-century beliefs about marriage and divorce with perspectives from other eras, from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the medieval period to Mary Astell and Daniel Defoe after the Restoration, and Doris Lessing in the Twentieth Century.

Paradise Lost in Context

John Milton, Paradise Lost NAEL7.1.1815
Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum NAEL7.1.1282
  [Eve's Apology in Defense of Women] NAEL7.1.1285
Joseph Addison, Paradise Lost: General Critical Remarks NAEL7.1.2503
Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets [Milton] NAEL7.1.2742
William Blake NAEL7.2.35
Percy Bysshe Shelley NAEL7.2.698
George Gordon, Lord Byron NAEL7.2.551

Paradise Lost in Context offers a copious selection of sources, parallels, and responses to Milton's radically revisionist epic. The texts and illustrations, which include a gallery of paintings of the Genesis story, invite readers to examine how Paradise Lost engages with interpretative traditions, how it uses classical myth, how it challenges orthodox notions of Edenic innocence, and how it is positioned within but also against epic conventions. The selection of images and interpretations of the Fall will shed light on Aemilia Lanyer's depiction of Eve as well as Milton's. Marvell's response to Milton's epic, included here, invites comparison with the later comments of Joseph Addison and Samuel Johnson, while the selections from Blake, Shelley, and Byron invite consideration of the centrality of Milton's epic and his Satanic hero to Romantic thought.

Civil Wars of Ideas: Seventeenth-Century Politics, Religion, and Culture

Andrew Marvell NAEL7.1.1684
  especially An Horatian Ode NAEL7.1.1700
John Milton, Areopagitica NAEL7.1.1801
Robert Herrick NAEL7.1.1643
Richard Crashaw NAEL7.1.1629
Henry Vaughan NAEL7.1.1615
Izaak Walton NAEL7.1.1582
Richard Lovelace NAEL7.1.1670

Civil Wars of Ideas: Seventeenth-Century Politics, Religion, and Culture provides an opportunity to explore, through political and polemical treatises and striking images, some of the issues and conflicts that led to civil war and the overthrow of monarchical government (1642–60). This section will allow students to consider the impact of these conflicts on the writers whose lives they touched, such as Herrick, Crashaw, Vaughan, Marvell, Walton, and Lovelace, as well as Milton. Pictures and accounts of the trial and execution of Charles I provide the basis for comparisons with Andrew Marvell's depiction of these events in An Horatian Ode. Roger Williams' argument for absolute religious toleration should be read alongside Milton's defense of a free press in Areopagitica, published in the same year.

Emigrants and Settlers

Francis Bacon, Of Plantations NAEL7.1.1536
Andrew Marvell, Bermudas NAEL7.1.1686
John Donne, Elegy 19. To His Mistress Going to Bed NAEL7.1.1256
Ben Jonson, The Masque of Blackness NAEL7.1.1294
Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam NAEL7.1.1509
Gerrard Winstanley, The True Leveller's Standard Advanced NAEL7.1.1740
John Milton, Paradise Lost NAEL7.1.1815

Emigrants and Settlers offers further perspectives on the key issues of colonization and cultural contact in the period. The topic cluster enables students to compare the realities of English "plantations" in Ireland and the New World with the ideological visions of Bacon and Marvell, and to consider how major figures like Donne and Jonson were implicated in these projects. The seventeenth-century fascination with Jews and ancient Israelites, found in Cary, Winstanley, and Milton among others, is illuminated by a selection of controversial passages bearing on the readmission of Jews to England.


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