This course is devoted to the study of English literature from its earliest roots to the beginning of the Romantic Age—literature from the eighth century (give or take) to just before 1800. Because the course covers 1000 years, it will lay out cultural contexts in broad strokes, but with enough specificity that you will be able to differentiate the literature of, say, the Middle Ages from that of the seventeenth century.
In many ways, the time periods covered in the course lay down the foundations for the modern world. We will give particular attention to how the modern world has its roots in these earlier texts. I hope that you will see the texts of the course as a “distant mirror,” to use historian Barbara Tuchman’s excellent phrase, of our own age and its concerns.
By the end of the term, you will be able to: