England in the fourteenth century was a prosperous mercantilist kingdom in the northwest corner of Europe, part of the Roman Catholic church, and subject to its fair share of internal and external conflict. By 1660, however, the picture had distinctly changed: England had broken away from the Roman church, established itself as a preeminent naval power, watched Parliament try and execute its king, and had laid the foundations for a global empire that would last until the twentieth century. It was during this eventful period that the English language took the form that we speak and write it in today. This course will examine how certain authors during this time invented and developed a poetic and dramatic tradition in English, and how they shaped and commented on themselves and their societies. We will begin with the noisy and bustling world of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and conclude with Milton's imposing and ambitious epic, Paradise Lost. In between these two figures we will read works by the Gawain-poet, Malory, More, Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare (plays and sonnets), Jonson, Bacon, Donne, Hobbes, and others. There will be occasional quizzes, two papers, a midterm and a final exam.