E301 2078 YANDELL (Note instructor change)
Literatures in English to 1600

9:30a-10:45a TR (30) 3 cr.


E301 will allow you to read works in three major areas (poetry, prose, and drama) from the period of 600 to 1600. These are representative texts of multiple genres, and although most are English (including modern translations of Old English and Middle English), we will also be looking at some Celtic pieces. Class discussions will play a central role in the class, requiring all students to be prepared to discuss. These will be supplemented with presentations on major topics that shaped medieval life and texts. The English language underwent great changes over this thousand-year period, and some of our time will be spent reviewing the pronunciation of Old English and Middle English. You will read some works in the original Middle English.

The period of 600-1600 is known (very broadly) as the "Middle Ages," and throughout the semester we will explore what this middleness means. We will consider which works were valued (and available) at the beginning of the period, how they were transmitted, circulated, and preserved over time, and how genres and thematic concerns changed. Brian Stock says of the period: "The Renaissance invented the Middle Ages in order to define itself; and the Romantics reinvented them in order to escape from themselves. In their wildest ramifications 'the Middle Ages' thus constitute one of the most prevalent cultural myths of the modern world." Our modern understanding of this period comes primarily through its texts, and we will attempt to see how this middle period became defined by what came before and after it.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature Vol. 1 (7th ed.) and a reader (at Collegiate Copies) will constitute the two texts for the class, and our three major readings (Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Book One of The Fairie Queen) will be supplemented with numerous shorter texts.

There will be a midterm and final exam, two essays, and a series of short writing assignments.