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Faerie Queene Project

Page history last edited by Cyrus Mulready 7 years, 10 months ago

English Lit. I


Final Group Project: Teaching The Faerie Queene




In my opinion, Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene is one of the most difficult books in all of English Literature.  Its language is strange, its many plots are confusing, and its message purposely obscure.  But understanding it may also be one of the most gratifying experiences you can have in studying literature.  Like most difficult art forms, The Faerie Queene rewards the attentive and careful reader.  You will find the text is filled with mesmerizing poetry, gripping political commentary, and some weirdly wonderful stories.




q  Help the class better understand the section of reading for that day.

q  To become the class experts on your section of The Faerie Queene and lend your ideas and expertise to the course.


You should think of the main goal of your presentation as educating the class on your section.  You will do this in two parts: a verbal presentation and a handout of materials that in some way elucidates your assigned section of reading.  These materials should prick our interest and help us better understand the section of The Faerie Queene we are reading for class that day.  I encourage you to use other forms of media in your presentation as well.



Your group presentation will be roughly 20 minutes in length and will set up our general conversation and analysis of the material for the day.  Your group is responsible for this section of class, and I will be participating in a very limited way. Every presentation must incorporate all

the following elements.  How you choose to cover these is entirely up to you.

  1. Summary and Outline.  You must offer the class a fairly detailed summary and outline of the reading assignment for the day.  Your summary should include what happens and should offer a list of relevant characters and places that appear in your section.
  2.    Close Reading.  Your group will pick one section of about 2-3 stanzas from the reading that you thought were particularly important, either to the section of reading you were assigned, or to the work as a whole.  You should point out interesting uses of figurative language and especially talk about how this small section of the text connects with some of the broader themes and ideas in The Faerie Queene.  Write up a brief (about ½ to one page) analysis of this passage to include in your handout to share with the class.
  3. Allegory.  Using a resource such as the Spenser Encyclopaedia or an annotated edition of The Faerie Queene (along with the Spenser Encyclopaedia, I have placed several editions with extensive notes on reserve at the Sojourner Truth Library), select and explain one key allegory from your section of reading. 
  4. Handout/Study Guide. Your handout should be a supplement to your presentation, but it should also give your audience something to use and refer to later on.  Please give me your handout ahead of time so that I can make photocopies of it for the class.  It can/should include the following:

q  A summary and outline of plot, characters, places, and other important information from the text.

q  Interesting or important images from the Renaissance that help illustrate something in the allegory you are discussing.

q  Quotations from either primary or secondary sources that you can refer to during your presentation.

q  Your close reading (step #2 above)

q  Questions that you have about your section, as well as topics or questions for further discussion.

q  A bibliography of any sources you’ve used.

5. Collaborative Work Statement. I expect that you will all be equal contributors to the project, and will downgrade anyone who appears not to be doing his or her share.


Your grade for the project will be based on the overall quality and interest of your presentation and the usefulness of your handout. 



At the Sojourner Truth Library, I have placed on reserve several sources to help you in your presentations.  You will find these under our course number. Please make use of them as you prepare:


General Reference:

Hamilton, A.C.  The Spenser Encyclopedia. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1990.


Organized like an encyclopedia, this book will be indispensable to your group.  Use it often and use it well!


McCabe, Richard, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.


A resource full of historical information on Spenser and the writing of the Faerie Queene. Also gives a good  overview of how critics have responded to the work through time.



These are different editions that have more extensive notes than your Norton Anthology (look in the back of the books for the notes).  You may find it helpful to consult these as you are working on your summaries and presentations.


The Faerie Qveene. Ed. A.C. Hamilton. 3rd Ed.  New York: Longman, 2009.


The Faerie Queene.  Ed. Thomas P. Roche.  New York: Penguin, 1978.


The Faerie Queene: Book I. The Complete Works of Edmund Spenser.  Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1932.


Reader’s Guides:

Freeman, Rosemary. The Faerie Queene: A Companion for Readers. Berkeley: U of California P, 1970.


Heale, Elizabeth.  The Faerie Queene: A Reader’s Guide.  2nd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.  (There is also a copy of the first edition on reserve).


These are both written for readers who are unfamiliar with The Faerie Queene and offer some helpful ideas and information for understanding the text.



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