our course

ENGL 201 is the first half of a two-part sequence that concludes with ENGL 202 (British Literature since 1800). Together, they provide an introduction to major texts, significant writers, and critical issues as we have come to understand them in British literature and culture from the Anglo-Saxon period through today. This half of the sequence focuses on the early days of British literature (when it first appeared in written form, over a millennium ago) through the 18th century, covering 800 years in fifteen weeks.  As our varied list of readings attests, one of the aims of 201 is to suggest the range of English literature rather than to provide an in-depth analysis of any one period, writer, or literary or cultural movement. That kind of investigation is the purview of 300-level English courses, for which this course can be considered a sort of ‘trailer.’

Taking the approach we do in 201 engages us with vexing and fascinating questions of literary study in the early 21st century, given the predominance of anonymous writing throughout the middle ages (providing us a very different conception of authorship from ours), the development of Standard English through the course of the 800 years (from its total absence to its growth in the 14th-17th centuries, and its institutionalization in the 18th), and abundant evidence challenging the traditional grand narrative literary critics constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries depicting English literature as “evolving” and “developing” from naive (10th century) to urbane (18th).

ENGL 201 is required of English majors and minors and is offered as a general education Humanities course for non-majors. This means the ENGL 201 classroom gathers together a mix of English majors and minors, potential majors and minors, and non-majors, with students at every level bringing a range of academic and other experiences and interests to our encounters with these cultural products. The course is constructed with this diverse audience in mind.

Upon completing this class, you will be familiar with what we have come to see as key moments in the development of British literary traditions. In the process, you will acquire additional proficiency as close readers of literature, as capable writers of literary analyses, and as more experienced consumers of poetry and prose.

As a course that satisfies the gen-ed Humanities requirement, this course includes the following student learning outcomes:

  • Students analyze how ideas are represented, interpreted or valued in various expressions of human culture.
  • Students examine relevant primary source materials as understood by the discipline and interpret the material in writing assignments.
  • These outcomes will be assessed using Paper 2.

Required textbooks:

Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Concise Edition, Volume A, 2nd edition
ISBN 978-1-55481-048-2
(Save 20% when you order directly from the Broadview website, using discount code: broadview20%)
Shakespeare, The Tempest, (New Folger Library Shakespeare edition)
ISBN: 978-0743482837