| ||We survey English literature historically from the earliest survivals to the twentieth century, tracing the development 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. It is unfortunately out of print, but copies remain available. We supplement the readings with a couple of Shakespeare plays and a few novels, and some incidental smaller items made available online.
From a pedagogical point of view, the course introduces 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. Students especially intrigued by the older forms of English are welcome to take Old English when we offer it.