Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Literature Before 1660

ENGL 020.301

The term "Middle Ages" first gained currency in the 17th century and has since had a powerful influence over our conception of the literary past. This course introduces students to three hundred years of early English literature by examining the ways in which that literature mythologizes and historicizes. How do medieval and Renaissance writers  reinterpret classical, heroic, and Christian themes? What idealized pasts, foreign places, utopias, and dystopias do they imagine and to what purpose? What myths about gender, ethnicity, and nationality do they perpetuate and create? Finally, how do our own myths about "medieval" and "Renaissance" determine how we read English literature?

Readings will Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Malory's Morte D'Arthur, More's Utopia, sonnets by Spenser and Donne, a Shakespeare play and selections from Milton's Paradise Lost. Assignments will include several short papers, a midterm exam, and a final exam.

fulfills requirements
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major