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Introduction to English Literature
This course offers an introduction to the full sweep of English literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. It allows students to sample works from different periods while also showing how these works are connected together, over and across time, by continuing narrative, generic and thematic concerns. Teaching will be by seminar; the seminars will focus on the set literary works. You are encouraged to read widely and suggestions for intellectual, cultural and critical sources can be found on the Moodle webpage.
The course will introduce students to a wide variety of reading matter – epics, mock-epics, long poems, novels, but one of its main aims will also be to encourage students, through intense weekly seminars, to further develop their reading skills, and to broaden their critical vocabulary. The richness and variety of English literature is unparalleled – it is a wonderful subject to study. But it is also a challenging one, and this course is designed to give students a taste of that challenge
You are advised to provide yourself with a map of the development of English literature, for example Andrew Sanders, The Short Oxford History of English Literature 3rd ed. (Oxford 2004).
Several set texts can be found in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, ed. Margaret Ferguson and others (Norton 1996). You should read its opening essay on ‘Versification’.
The following works are central to the course. You are advised to read some of them before the course begins.
- Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney (Faber and Faber, 1999)
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Simon Armitage (Faber and Faber, 2007)
- John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667, revised 1674), either ed. Alastair Fowler (2nd ed. Longman, 1998), or ed. John Leonard (Penguin, 2000)
- Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1714), in The Norton Anthology of Poetry
- William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805 text), in William Wordsworth: The Major Works ed. Stephen Gill (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008)
- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860) ed. A.S. Byatt (Penguin, 1979)
- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922) in The Norton Anthology of Poetry
- J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (Vintage, 1999)
10 x 2-hour seminars
The seminars on longer works may focus on selected sections but you are required to read the complete text. Selections will be posted on Moodle prior to the course.
- Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf
- Sir Gawain – using original text with Smon Armitage’s translation
- Paradise Lost Bks 1 & 2
- Paradise Lost Bks 9 & 10
- The Rape of the Lock Reading Week
- The Prelude: selected sections
- The Mill on the Floss 1: selected sections
- The Mill on the Floss 2: selected sections
- The Waste Land
Examination will be by two essays of 2,500 words each, to be submitted by the end of term. The course convenor will supply a list of suggested topics and a deadline for essay submissions.