E 379N • British Literature: The Beginnings to Renaissance
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
This course will survey British literature from its earliest forms up to 1640. The medieval and Renaissance periods witnessed the rise of English as a courtly and legal vernacular, the invention of the printing press, the emergence of the modern book, and the development of the public theater. Also, a number of genres of English literature matured in these periods, including romance, lyric, and secular drama. We will consider the centrality of poets such as Chaucer, Wyatt, Shakespeare, and Donne to the flowering of the English literary tradition. In addition to the great canonical writers, the course will cover neglected and over-looked categories of writers equally important to the development of English literary heritage, such as women, heretics, and political propagandists.
The focus is on thoroughly understanding and responding to a broad set of texts. Active class participation (including attendance), exams that will be closely tethered to the readings, and response papers form the bulk of the grade. Participation (10%); five short response papers, with the lowest grade dropped (40%); midterm (20%); final (30%).
All readings will be from the Norton Anthology of British Literature, vol. 1 (which has been ordered in a separate 3-book set for convenience), supplemented by occasional class handouts. No specialized linguistic knowledge necessaryreadings from more difficult medieval sources will be either translated or accompanied by thorough reading aids. Texts and authors include: Beowulf; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (excerpts) and other works; Medieval English drama; Wyatt; Sidney; Marlowe; Shakespeare; Donne; Jonson.