Arts and Sciences (BASc)
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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; most seminars will set literary works written in English alongside intellectual and cultural sources, including works originally written in other languages.
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)
Extracts from the following
works will also be discussed in seminars.
- The Bible (Authorized Version 1611), ed. Stephen Prickett (Oxford World’s Classics, 1997). Genesis
- Homer, The Odyssey (500s BC?) trans. E. V. Rieu and D. C. H. Rieu (Penguin, 1991)
- Virgil, The Aeneid (20s BC), trans. David West (Penguin, 1991)
- St. Augustine, Confessions (c. 397), trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford World's Classics, 1991), esp. books 1-2, 6
- Dante, Inferno (1310s), trans. Robin Kirkpatrick (Penguin, 2006)
- Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), ed. Miriam Brody (Penguin, 1992), esp. chapters 1-4, 7-9
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848), ed. David McLellan (Oxford World’s Classics, 1998)
10 x 2-hour seminars
1. Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf
2. Sir Gawain – using original text with Smon Armitage’s translation
3. Paradise Lost Bks 1 & 2, with passages from the Odyssey
4. Paradise Lost Bks 9 & 10, with Genesis 1-3
5. The Rape of the Lock, with Aeneid Bk VI
6. The Prelude: selected sections, with passages from Rousseau’s Confessions
7. The Mill on the Floss 1: selected sections, with passages from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
8. The Mill on the Floss 2: selected sections, with passages from The Communist Manifesto
9. The Waste Land, with passages from Dante’s Inferno
10. Disgrace, with passages from Wordsworth’s The Prelude
Examination will be by 2 essays of 2,500 words each, one to be submitted in each half term. The course convenor will supply a list of suggested topics.