This is an introductory survey of English literature from the earliest survivals to the twentieth century. We approach the literature historically, tracing the developments of themes, ideas, and techniques of writing, as well as looking at the long and fascinating history of the language itself.
The course is built around a very solid textbook, England in Literature, part of the "America Reads" series from Scott, Foresman. I will supplement the readings along the way with several novels and plays, and some incidental smaller items to be made available online.
The course attempts to introduce the student as well to the idea of close reading of texts: whereas Western Literature to Dante focuses on extensive reading of a wide range of material, all of it in translation, English Literature is more intensive: it looks at a smaller body of material more closely. In part this is possible because we will be examining most of the texts as they were originally written, with only the occasional minor adjustments for spelling. The Old and Middle English materials (not normally accessible to high school students without considerable specialized language study) are given here in modern translations, but beginning in the Renaissance, texts are as originally written. Throughout the course we try to mold careful and analytical readers, responding to the literature with a discerning and charitable eye.