covered in this course includes major foundational texts written in the English
language, from its earliest Anglo-Saxon origins through its development into
the language of Chaucer, to that of the King James Bible and Shakespeare. As these familiar references suggest to most
English majors, the texts covered in this course are, for the most part, canonical,
recognized classics of British literature.
But one aim of this course will be to indicate that, upon their first
appearance, these works were not the traditional cornerstones of English
literature they now seem. Many represent
a moment of—if not revolution—at least a major historical shift and
corresponding transition from one phase of cultural development to another
previously resisted, but finally acknowledged, and reflected in the altering
language. When considered in the context
of the slow but undeniable growth of the English of the Anglo-Saxon peoples to
those of the English Renaissance, the works included in this course represent a
cultural corpus that is both intractably traditional, yet punctuated by change,
both social and literary.
begin with Beowulf,proceed through
samples of early English poetry and the literature of Arthurian Britainto the Canterbury Tales, and the literature of the Elizabethans. The goals of the course are to familiarize
students with literature of influence on subsequent authors (both those writing
in English as well as other languages), and also to suggest how these works
represented the dynamism of more than five centuries of cultural change,
expressed in a language that evolved as much as the socio-cultural nexus from
which it emerged.
expected to read regularly and participate when lectures yield to class
discussions. Group work on assigned
questions will encourage students to explore the literature with their peers,
and then share their responses with the class.
Written work will consist of two (4-5 page) essays, one of which may be
rewritten for a higher grade. A midterm
and a final exam will also be given.
Steady attendance is essential to doing well in this class.
TEXTS: May be
online or ordered through Revolution Books.