Michael Adams

10:10a-11:00a MWF (70 students) 3 cr. A&H.

Open to majors and declared minors only.

This course surveys 600 years of British literature, from the Anglo- Saxon heroic poem Beowulf to (much of) Shakespeare. As a result, we’ll read more than we should this term, and, at times, the pace will leave you a little breathless. Nevertheless, every work we’ll read justifies itself: we won’t waste time on bad examples. And nearly every work also plays a significant role in English literary history. All of our texts are collected in the Norton Anthology of British Literature and include the Anglo-Saxon heroic poem Beowulf (in translation), the alliterative romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation), the morality play Everyman, the mystery play called The Second Shepherd’s Pageant, several of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Book I of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and a wide array of lyric poems from Chaucer to Shakespeare, focusing especially on some by William Dunbar, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Queen Elizabeth, Michael Drayton, and Shakespeare. In conjunction with the lyrics, we will read some other minor texts included in the anthology.

But the course is about more than the works we read: it is a course in the study of literature, and the terms of that discipline are not entirely of one’s making, not simply a matter of taste. One values according to what one understands, and genuine understanding is never easy: one needs to know some fundamental things about British history, about literary history, about the English language, about how literature gets written, about how you can read it with pleasure and profit, and how you can express your ideas about it most effectively. This course will promote your literary understanding in all of these aspects; it will develop your TECHNIQUE while (and because) you encounter a number of great and influential works. Besides the reading, coursework will include three in-class examinations, an essay (8-10 pages), and a comprehensive final examination.