British Literature to 1800

This course introduces students to a selection of texts that are both fascinating in their own right and in their significance as landmarks of British literature. Our readings will spotlight moments in the progress from paganism and the heroic code, to early models of chivalry, to the peril of princes when power is besieged by malevolent but cunning subjects, to the puzzle of power when love is at stake and passion threatens legacies of privilege.

Readings will inclusive samples of the representative dilemmas of British history and society, from one of the earliest documented classics of oral literature, Beowulf, to a central tale of Arthurian knighthood, Gawain and the Greene Knight, to selections from Chaucer’s account of more ribald than religious pilgrimage, Canterbury Tales (all in excerpted, modern-English friendly versions), to Shakespeare’s Othello and its notorious presentation of embodied “evil” in Iago, to the paradoxical exposure of the evil of enslaved “nobility” in Aphra Behn’s Ooronoko, to the self-questioning examination of the British class system when it comes to Romanticism’s dawning “love for love’s sake” in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Evaluation will be based on

  • three papers
  • a midterm
  • and a take-home final essay exam.

Miscellaneous in-class writing assignments will gauge students’ understanding of their class readings. Participation and attendance will count toward the final grade.


  • TBA
    available at Revolution Books