English R1B

Reading and Composition: Other Worlds

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Spring 2015 Strub, Spencer
TTh 9:30-11 225 Wheeler

Book List

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Alighieri, Dante: Inferno; Chaucer, Geoffrey: Dream Visions and Other Poems; Shakespeare, William: The Tempest

Other Readings and Media

Please purchase the Hollander translation of Inferno, the Armitage translation of Sir Gawain, and the Norton Critical edition of The Tempest. Further readings, both primary and critical texts, to be posted on bCourses. Film screenings to be noted on syllabus.


What does it mean to imagine another world? Is it an opportunity for unvarnished fantasy, or for critical reflection on your own society? Can you tell the truth when writing about an invented place? By way of an answer, this course considers the journeys narrated during a particularly fertile period of otherworldly imagination: the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The writers we will read in this course map the architecture of hell, the landscape of dreams, and the laws of fairyland. We will move from these imagined places to the narratives that emerged out of the cataclysmic encounter between two real worlds: the European colonization of the Americas. Throughout the course, we will examine the contexts – historical, political, literary, religious, and scientific – that help us to better understand these works.

This course is intended to teach you to pose analytical questions, develop complex arguments supported by evidence, and build research skills that will be applicable in your college writing and in your future career. To that end, you will complete drafts and revisions of three substantive essays, culminating in a long paper supported by original research. A number of shorter exercises will supplement and help prepare for these major writing assignments.

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