This course introduces students to the major works of English literature written before 1660. Over a period of roughly a thousand years, from the eighth to the seventeenth century, England underwent multiple major transformations: social, political, religious, linguistic. How do these transformations shape literature and language? How do formal literary changes themselves shape culture? What does it mean to write literature in English in this vast era? In this course, we will read major texts from medieval and early modern England and examine the dazzling array of genres, topics, themes, and forms from this thousand-year period. No prior knowledge of Old or Middle English required. All texts will be read in modern English translation, but with some opportunities to explore the original language of the texts. Students will gain experience closely reading and analyzing medieval and early modern works, and practice their skills in the form of several short essays, culminating in a final project at the end of the semester.