History of Ideas / History of Literary Forms

I.  History of Ideas: an international scholarly movement of the Twentieth Century that sought to provide coherent accounts of cultural change and norms over time by tracing specific foundational ideas as they emerge and are changed over time (major figures: Arthur O. Lovejoy, Isaiah Berlin, Rene Wellek, E.H. Gombrich, Paul O. Kristeller, Meyer Shapiro, etc.)To use this approach in literary analysis, you need one of two logical constructs to be working in your argument. 

A.  "Later Poet Knew the Work of Earlier Poet and Reacted to it"
     The first, tightest, and rarest approach, would be when you can show unambiguously that a later poet is aware of and adapting ideas in the work of an earlier poet.  For instance, when Congreve's Mirabel specifically mentions Jonson's Mosca, you have "smoking gun" evidence that we can analyze  WoW as a revisiting of the legacy hunting plot of the earlier play and you can talk about patterns of change you see in C's adaptation of it, usually as a reflection of specific kinds of changes in English society between the first and second works. 

How many of these "later/earlier" pairs can you connect?

John Milton and Aemilia Lanyer

Lady Mary Wroth and Sir Philip Sidney

Donne and Mary Sidney Herbert's psalm translations

Milton and Marlowe

"Lear" and "Volpone"

Jonson and Herrick

B.  "Culture Changed and Literature Changed With It"

     The second, looser, but easier approach would be to start from a historical change that is so well-documented as to need no scholarly source (the Reformation, the Spanish Armada, the Elizabethan Succession Crisis, the Civil War, the Restoration).  Then pick one work from before the change to test how it may illustrate the "before" state (looking as usual for non-obvious evidence as well as the obvious stuff) and one work from after the change to Or, read a historical study of some idea or cultural norm which undergoes a change from one era to another and see how it plays out in works from before and after (or during!) the change.

II.  History of Literary Forms

        Pick a genre we have studied and look at early and later authors' use of the form.  How has the form's content and form been altered by the passage of time?  What historical and aesthetic explanations can you find for the changes?