This course proposes to introduce you to the vast expanse of early English literature while also training you in the fundamentals of good academic writing in the humanities. We will read selections of poetry, drama, and prose by Chaucer, Malory, More, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, Milton and other writers in to ask the following questions: what do we mean when we refer to "English literature"? what did the choice to write in English signify for late-14th through 17th century authors? in what way did English writers imitate, challenge, adapt, repudiate, and/ or steal the literary matter of Greek and Roman antiquity in their efforts to establish a distinctively English culture?
In addition to lively participation in discussion, the requirements of this course include two brief papers using the Oxford English Dictionary and the MLA Bibliography of Literary Criticism, a close-reading exercise, a commonplace book, and a final essay. There will be no midterm or final examination, though there will be weekly reading quizzes while we read Chaucer.