This course serves as an introduction to three centuries of some of the most fascinating writings in Britain, beginning with the aftermath of the Black Death and ending with the onset of the Civil War between the Cavaliers and Roundheads. We'll cover variety of genres (Arthurian romance, utopia, history play, metaphysical lyric, to name a few) and generally concern ourselves with the interrogation of the terms and concepts of "medieval" and "early modern." Questions we'll ask of this general topic: what purpose do "the Middle Ages" and "the Renaissance" serve? More specifically, 'whose' purpose, then and now? How do the texts and authors we'll be reading over the course of the semester speak to one another? How do they both testify to and defy categories of periodization and literary history? Our readings will include both complete works by and excerpts from such writers as Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, Langland, Thomas Hoccleve, Margery Kempe, Malory, Skelton, More, Wyatt, Spenser, Shakespeare, Mary Wroth, Donne, and Milton (but not Paradise Lost!). Requirements: regular attendance, active class participation, weekly short responses, two medium-length essays, and a final exam.