English 45A

Literature in English: Through Milton

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2015 Nolan, Maura
110 Barrows
MW 3-4 + discussion sections F 3-4

Book List

Dickson, D., ed.: The Poetry of John Donne; Howe, N., ed.: Beowulf: A Prose Translation; Mann, J., ed.: Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales; Marlowe, C.: Dr. Faustus; Milton, J.: Paradise Lost; Niles, J., ed.: Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition


What is the English literary tradition?  Where did it come from? What are its distinctive habits, questions, styles, obsessions? This course will answer these and other questions by focusing on five key writers from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance:  the anonymous Beowulf poet; Geoffrey Chaucer; Christopher Marlowe; John Donne; and John Milton. We will start with the idea that the English literary tradition is a set of interrelated texts and problems that recur over the course of several centuries.  Some of these relationships are formal; we will pay special attention to the genres, techniques, and styles that poets use to create their works.  Some of these relationships are linguistic; students will learn to read Middle English (out loud, too!) and explore the significance of linguistic change as the Middle Ages becomes the Renaissance.  Other relationships are historical; we will explore not only the pressure of contemporary events on literature, but also literature's role in creating both historical continuity and change over time. And some of these relationships are cultural, as poets reflect upon, seek to change, furiously criticize, or happily embrace a variety of human behaviors, from religious practices to love relationships to debates about gender to death and dying.   

Throughout the semester, students will work on developing their skill at close reading.  We will work on close reading during lectures and in your discussion sections.  You will do close readings at home.  You are welcome to come to office hours to practice close reading!  No one can be a literary critic who cannot perform a close reading of a literary text.  We will work on learning the tools of the trade, the literary terms and generic distinctions necessary for close reading.  Expect to write three papers and to take a final exam.

Discussion Sections

201 Wilson, Evan
F 3-4 121 Wheeler
202 Lorden, Jennifer A.
F 3-4 242 Dwinelle

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