Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Literature Before 1660: Medieval and Renaissance Literature

ENGL 020.001
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major

This class will introduce students to the major authors and genres of early English literature. We will proceed chronologically, from the Anglo-Saxon period to the English Interregnum (from the period of Beowulf to the period of Milton’s Paradise Lost), and cover examples of poetry, prose, and drama in most of the major periods. In addition, we will approach as much of the literature as we can under the thematic rubrics of “origin” and “loss.” As we read these early texts, we will ask ourselves how early literature accounts for the origins of the English people and of English writing. How do early English literary texts repeat foundational narratives? And how, in turn, do they account for alienation, for the loss of home, and for exile from God? We will not think of these texts as simply part of our shared history as speakers of English, we will also ask ourselves how these texts take part in the constant revision of history.