Room: Minne' Hall 358

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ENG 301

British Literature to 1660

Room: Minne' Hall 358

M W F 11:00-11:50

Winona State University

Dr. Andrew Higl

English Department

Winona State University


Minne’ 320

Office Hours: M 12:00-2:00; T 10:30-12:00; W 12:00-2:00; TH 10:30-12:00

This course will serve as an introduction to British literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. We will begin with Anglo-Saxon (Old English) works such as Beowulf (in translation), then continue with Middle English works such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, then Shakespeare’s King Lear, and then finish with selections from various seventeenth-century writers. In addition to reading some of the more famous works of literature, we will also read some lesser-known works, which ought to help paint a broader picture of medieval and early modern literature, culture, religion, and politics.
Between 700 and 1660, the language, culture, religion, and politics in England underwent a series of major changes. England transitioned from Catholicism to Protestantism. The English monarchy underwent major transformations and upheavals. Language morphed from Old English (unreadable for most modern speakers), to Middle English (still very remote), to Early Modern English (what most assume is Old English!!). We will explore how these changes influence cultural production. Finally, we will consider especially the transition from manuscript to print and the effects of this new technology on the works in this period.
Since this course must cover nearly 1000 years in one semester, we cannot explore every historical transition; nor can we read every literary work. However, we will do our best to survey a selection of literary works and their cultural context.
The goals of this course are threefold. I hope we will:

  1. Grow as critical readers of works of literature with an awareness of cultural and historical context. These works are historically remote from our present culture yet highly influential on new literary and cultural works. Engaging with difficult and influential works will help us become better readers generally with a broad historical awareness.

  2. Learn to question the textual basis for the works of literature we read, including the material books produced in particular historical moments and, if possible, the processes of revision and change.

  3. Develop a critical voice willing to seek out and express interpretations of literary works and to share these interpretations with others through discussion and writing.


The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Concise Edition, Volume A

Various Readings available as PDFs online

Exercises: There will be four 2-3 page papers that will ask you to engage a particular text or question in either a close reading, an investigation report, an argument, or a personal reflection.
Oral Performance: This material was (and is) meant to be read aloud, so you’ll get to do that. More details forthcoming!
One substantial essay: The final paper will be a research project developing a connection between literature and history/culture in some way (about 7 pages). I am happy to look at rough drafts, and I will give you a detailed checklist of expectations. Alternatively, there will be the opportunity to do a creative project that will also incorporate serious scholarly research and a personal narrative in lieu of the longer research paper.
Discussion Points /Quizzes: For each class (except exam days) I expect you to formulate one paragraph for discussion, posted to our course site four hours before class, which directly pertains to the day’s reading. You may also piggyback on a fellow student’s question by expanding something or taking the basic idea in a different direction. Discussion questions are not fact-based questions. They should, instead, promote argument, discussion, and close reading. Don’t be afraid to offer interpretations and conjectures grounded in the text. Reading quizzes will be unannounced. JUST DO THE READING!
Exams : There will be a midterm and a final consisting of some short answers, fill-ins, and passage identification. I will let you know the format and scope of the tests well in advance of the test dates.

Commitment Grade
The commitment grade is like a participation grade except a little different. The commitment grade is based on several things. (1) It is based on your attendance. This means that you should attend class. If you have more than three unexcused absences, your commitment grade will be reduced. If you have a chronic attendance problem, this will not only affect your commitment grade, but it will likely hurt your grade for the whole course. Simply, show up to class! Excused absences are fine and will not hurt your grade. Please communicate with me. If I suspect that you are simply skipping class regularly, I reserve the right to reduce your grade for the course. (2) I expect you to be prepared. This part of the grade is based on coming to class prepared to answer questions related to the assigned reading for that day and with copies (paper or electronic) of the readings handy for reference. (3) Be prepared with your daily discussion questions and by showing that you have done the reading via the short quizzes.
In general commitment means being prepared to ask thoughtful questions that help me and other members of the class understand what we don't yet understand. lt doesn't mean perfect mastery of the material on the first try. In other words: PLEASE don't hesitate to ask and ask again when you are puzzled!

Class Time
Class time will be divided into lectures, discussions, and creative activities. I will offer brief lectures in order to introduce basic ideas, literary forms, and historical/cultural background. Our discussions will develop out of the discussion questions you prepare, questions that I will prepare, and questions that develop as we read and discuss. Creative activities will involve various in-class group projects, performances, and role-playing activities.
The only texting in my class should refer to the act of interpreting texts. If I catch you misusing either your laptop or phone for things not relevant to the class, I will ask you to leave and your commitment grade will be reduced by 50%.
Grade Breakdown
Writing 20%

Commitment 10%

Midterm 20%

Final 30%

Final Essay 20%
Unexcused late assignments (final drafts) will receive a deduction of 20% each day they are late. (i.e. 90% becomes 70%). PLEASE COMMUNICATE WITH ME IF YOU NEED MORE TIME!
I will not accept any plagiarized assignments. Using another person’s words or ideas without attribution is plagiarism. No credit will be given for plagiarized work. If you borrow an idea or quote from another author, you must cite where you found the material. Sources must be cited in hando

uts as well as in formal papers. I don't mind what form of citation you use as long as your citations allow your reader to find your source easily. If you need help with creating citations or finding sources, please see me and I will be glad to help. You will receive no credit for the assignment and repeat offenses may result in an F for the course.

Commitment to Inclusive Excellence

WSU recognizes that our individual differences can deepen our understanding of one another and the world around us, rather than divide us. In this class, people of all ethnicities, genders, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities are strongly encouraged to share their rich array of perspectives and experiences. If you feel your differences may in some way isolate you from WSU’s community or if you have a need of any specific accommodations, please speak with the instructor early in the semester about your concerns and what we can do together to help you become an active and engaged member of our class and community.

Week 1 (8/22, 8/24, 8/26) Old English

M Introductions; overview of language evolution; reading with an eye for history and culture;
W The Medieval Period pp. 1-33; Bede 35-49. See the link to Bede’s World.
F Read: Reading Poetry pp. 1585-1604;

Discuss: Old English Riddles; Medieval culture;

Week 2 (8/29, 8/31, 9/2)

M Read: Dream of the Rood & Judith (see course site) and Exeter Elegies pp. 50-55

Distribute close reading assignment
W Read: the OE and ME version of Apollonius of Tyre (course handouts)

F Read Pericles Prince of Tyre (course handouts)

Week 3 (9/7, 9/9)

W Read: Marie de France Lanval pp. 106-122

F Read: Bisclavret (course handouts)

Week 4 (9/12, 9/14, 9/16)

M Read: SGGK pp. 144-174 (Part 1-2)

Discuss: culture of the fourteenth century; SGGK
W Read: SGGK pp. 174-209 (Part 3-4)

Discuss: Arthurian literature; SGGK and religion; SGGK and hunting; reading ME

F Write: Short investigation of the ME in Gawain using the MED. Compare with translation and engage with the argument of one scholarly article.

Week 5 (9/19, 9/21, 9/23)

M Read: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales pp. 214-235

Discuss: pitfalls of reading ME; pronunciation; CT history and form

W Read: Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale
F Write: Translation exercise
Week 6 (9/26, 9/28, 9/30)

M Read: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (course handouts)

W Read: Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and context readings pp. 318-371

F Read: Second Shepherd’s Play pp. 372-388. See course site for accompanying material on medieval drama.

Week 7 (10/3, 10/5, 10/7)

M Review and prepare for midterm
F The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century pp. 450-501

Discuss: Religious transitions; technological advances

Final Project Assignment

Week 8 (10/10, 10/12, 10/14)

M Read: The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus pp. 750-779

Discuss: The transition from medieval to early modern

W Wrap up Faustus. Reading accompanying materials.
F Read: King Lear Acts 1-2
Week 9 (10/17, 10/19, 10/21)

M Lear Acts 3-4

Discuss: Versions and meaningful differences
W Lear Act 5 daniel’s day
F Write: Compare and contrast one meaningful difference in Lear OR Faust early printed versions

Week 10 (10/24, 10/26, 10/28)

M More’s Utopia pp. pp. 504-534; Bacon 721—734; Hobbes’ Leviathan 935-939;
W Tyndale 535-548; Culture Portfolio pp. 692-709
F Wyatt pp. 549-559; Howard pp. 560-564;
Week 11 (10/31, 11/2, 11/4)

M Spenser’s letter to Raleigh

Spenser’s Faerie Queene pp. 573-590 (through the end of Canto 2)
W Spenser’s Faerie Queene pp. 590-625 (through the end of Canto 9)
F Spenser’s Faerie Queene pp. 625-650
Week 12 (11/7, 11/9, 11/11)

M Spenser and Sidney pp. 655-679

W Queen Elizabeth pp. 683- 691; Amelia Lanyer pp.

Cambridge Companion Reading “The Politics of Gender”

F Veterans’ Day NO CLASS
Week 13 (11/16, 11/18)

M Shakespeare pp. 788-801

W Ben Jonson pp. 890-902
F Donne pp. 903-929

Week 14 (11/21)

M Cambridge Companion readings (revisit poems cited)
W Thanksgiving break NO CLASS
F Thanksgiving break NO CLASS
Week 15 (11/28 11/30, 12/2)

M Herrick, Herbert, Marvell TBA

W Milton pp. 975-995
F Wrap up and review for final

Final Project due

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