English 221W: British Literature to 1798, Spring 2001

MWF 1:00 to 1:50 Birch 108


Instructor:  Assistant Professor Meg Powers Livingston          
Office Hours:  M-W 3-5pm, Tuesday noon-2:00, and by appointment
Office:  126C Smith Bldg.                   Mailbox:  128D Smith Bldg.
Phone and Voice Mail:  949-5745  
E-mail:  MPL10@psu.edu  (by far the best way to reach me unless you know I’m in my office)


Objectives:  To introduce students to a broad selection of early English literature, from ancient Anglo-Saxon poems to late Enlightenment drama.  This course will focus on several important shifts that occur during this vast sweep of time:

*   how does the English language itself develop and change?

*   how do notions of authorship and the value of literature develop and change?

*   how do these various literatures reflect the political and religious pressures of their times?  Why do some genres develop or otherwise become important at specific times?  How do the treatments of particular topics (heroism, for example) change over time?

By the end of the semester, you should come away from this course with a firm foundation in basic literary terminology; with a clear vision of this era’s broad, sweeping developments, as well as its subdivisions into the traditional literary periods; and, most importantly, a growing enjoyment of the literatures produced during this remarkable one-thousand-plus year span.


Required Texts:

*   Abrams, M. H.  Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th edition. Vols. 1A, 1B, and 1C  (NA on syllabus)

*   Shakespeare, William.  1 Henry IV

*   Sheridan, Richard.  The School for Scandal



*   Attendance at every class meeting.  A broad survey must cover massive amounts of material rather quickly:  miss a class, and you could miss the Protestant Reformation!  More than two unexcused absences will result in failure of the participation component of your grade; excessive absences, even if excused, could also hurt your participation grade.

*   Careful, repeated readings of the assigned texts.  Much of this literature will strike you as alien and difficult:  be prepared to look up a lot of words and terms.  You will find the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) immensely helpful.  The OED, an etymological dictionary that provides the history of how definitions change over time, is available at http://dictionary.oed.com/.  (Be aware that you can only access this site through a Penn State server because it is a subscription service).

*   Because of the huge sweep of history we will encounter, you must read ALL the introductory materials and ALL the footnotes even if not specifically assigned on the syllabus

*   Four papers:  two rather short (2-3 page), two longer (about 4-5 pages).  The short papers will be an explication/description of a specific passage; the two longer papers will ask you to think more broadly about thematic issues, particularly about the connections and/or dislocations between genres and/or literary periods.  One of your longer papers will require outside scholarly sources.

*   Mid-term and final examinations, consisting of both objective and brief essay sections.


Grading:  Papers = 50%, Exams = 30%, Participation, homework and quizzes = 20%


Technological Resources:

This class will take advantage of an electronic interactive program called FirstClass.  This program will allow me to post announcements, send messages, post links to helpful Internet resources, and other useful things.  The program will allow you to post questions, comments, and rough drafts and then respond to each other on an asynchronous bulletin board, as well as communicate “live” in a chat room environment.  We will have an in-class “hands-on” introduction to FirstClass early in the semester.



You must acknowledge any use of another’s words or ideas by the appropriate use of quotation or parenthetical reference.  All suspected plagiarism must be reported as a violation of the University’s Academic Integrity policy and can result in course failure and/or University expulsion.  Be warned:  I know how to use the web as well as you do (or better), so do not give in to the temptation to buy an online paper or to plagiarize online material, because I can and will find it.  If you find yourself struggling for any reason, please talk to me and we’ll work something out.




Week One

M 1/8

Introduction to the course

W 1/10

NA:  “The Middle Ages” (A1-6) and “Old and Middle English Prosody” (A19-20),  “Caedmon’s Hymn” (A23-26), “The Dream of the Rood” (A26-28)“The Wanderer” (A99-102), “The Wife’s Lament” (A102-103)

F 1/12

NA:  “The Battle of Maldon” (A103-109) and Beowulf  (A29-63)

Week Two

M 1/15

NA:  Beowulf  (A63-99) (meeting in CLRC 201)

W 1/17

NA:  “Anglo-Norman England” (A7-9), “Legendary Histories of Britain” (A115-126); Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, parts 1-2 (A156-181)

F 1/19

NA:  SGGK, parts 3-4 (A181-210)

Week Three

M 1/22

NA:  “The Middle Ages” (A9-18) and Chaucer, “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales, (A210-219.164)

W 1/24

NA:  Chaucer, “General Prologue”  (A219.165-235) and discussion of Paper #1

F 1/26

NA:  Chaucer, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale”  (A253-267.632)

Week Four

M 1/29

NA:  Chaucer, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” (A267.633-281)

W 1/31

NA:  Kempe, “Autobiography” (A366-379) and Skelton, selections (B499-503)

F 2/2

NA:  Everyman (A445-467)

Week Five

M 2/5

(IMPORTANT!  Read the NA “The Sixteenth Century” by this date!) 


NA:  Wyatt, all selections but especially “My Own John Poins,” “The Long Love,” “Farewell Love,” and “Whoso List to Hunt” (B525-537); Surrey, all selections but especially  “Alas!  So all things..,” “Soote Season,” and “Wyatt Restest Here” (B569-577)

T 2/6

First paper (explication of a character “portrait” from Chaucer’s “General Prologue”) due in my mailbox in Smith 126D by 2pm.

W 2/7

NA:  Spenser, all Amoretti sonnets (B863-868); Sidney, Astrophil and Stella #1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 15, 37, 45, 52, 71 (B909-931)

F 2/9

NA:  Shakespeare, all Sonnets (B1026-1043)

Week Six

M 2/12

NA:  Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1 (B622-641); Sidney, The Defense of Poesy (B933-954)

W 2/14

NA:  Marlowe, Dr. Faustus  (Scenes 1-5, B990-1008))

F 2/16

NA:  Marlowe, Dr. Faustus  (Scenes 6-13, B1008-1025)

Week Seven

M 2/19

Discussion of papers 2-4, outside resources, and citation

W 2/21

Shakespeare, 1Henry IV, Act 1-3

F 2/23

Shakespeare, 1Henry IV, Act 4-5

Week Eight

M 2/26

Mid-term exam

W 2/28

(IMPORTANT!  Read the NA “The Seventeenth Century” by this date!)

NA:  Donne, Profane Verse  (B1233-1257) and Johnson “Metaphysical Wit” (C2736-2738)

F 3/2

NA:  Jonson, especially “On My First Daughter,” “On My First Son,” “On Shakespeare,” “On Inviting a Friend to Supper,” “To Penshurst” (B1292-1294, 1393-1401, 1414-1416); Herrick, especially “Farewell to Sack,” “Corinna’s Going A-Maying,” “To the Virgins” and “His Prayer to Ben Jonson” (B1643-1655); Lanyer “The Description of Cooke-ham” (B1287-1292)

Spring Break March 5-9

Week Nine

M 3/12

NA:  Donne, Holy Sonnets and Devotions (B1268-1281)

T 3/13

Second paper (a brief staging from one scene of a play) due in my mailbox in Smith 128D by 2pm

W 3/14

NA:  Herbert, especially “The Altar,” “Redemption,” “Easter Wings,” “Jordan (1) & (2),” “The Windows,” “The Pulley,” and “The Forerunners” (B1595-1615); Vaughn, especially “Regeneration,” “The Retreat,” and “The Night” (B1615-1629); and Crashaw, “On the Wounds of our Crucified Lord” and “The Flaming Heart” (B1629-1630, 1634-1635, 1640-1643)

F 3/16

NA:  Milton, “On Shakespeare,” “How Soon Hath Time,” “When I Consider How My Light is Spent,” and “Methought I Saw...” (B1771-1774, 1782, 1811-1815); Marvell, especially “Bermudas,” “The Nymph Complaining,” “To His Coy Mistress,” “The Picture of Little T. C...,” and “The Garden” (B1684-1700)

Week Ten

M 3/19

NA:  Lady Mary Wroth, sonnets from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (B1422-1423, 1428-1432); selections by Katherine Philips (B1679-1684) and Margaret Lucas Cavendish (B1759-1771)

W 3/21

NA:  Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1 and Book 9, lines 1-47  (B1815-1836, 1961-1962)

F 3/23

NA:  Milton, PL, Book 2 and Book 3, lines 1-415 (B1836-1867)

Week Eleven

M 3/26

NA:  Milton, PL, Book 4, lines 1-130, 288-393 (B1874-1877, 1880-1882), Book IX, lines 445-959 (B1971-1982); and Book XII, lines 465-650 (B2040-2044)

T 3/27

Third paper (4-5 page explication with comparison of two poems) due in my mailbox in Smith 128D by 2pm

W 3/28

(IMPORTANT!  Read the NA “The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century” by this date!) NA:  Dryden, “Criticism” (C2114-2122)

F 3/30

II Samuel 13-18 (in the Bible, on handout); NA:  Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (C2075-2099)

Week Twelve

M 4/2

NA:  Behn, “The Disappointment” and Oroonoko (C2165-2215)

W 4/4

NA:  Behn, Oroonoko, continued; discussion of fourth paper

F 4/6

NA:  Congreve, The Way of the World, Acts 1-2 (C2215-2239)

Week Thirteen

M 4/9

NA:  Congreve, The Way of the World , Acts 3-5 (C2239-2280)

W 4/11

NA:  Rochester, “The Disable Debauchee” and “Imperfect Enjoyment” (C2162-C2165) and “A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind” (on handout); Swift, “A Description of a City Shower” and “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” (C2298-2312)

F 4/13

NA:  Swift, “A Modest Proposal” (C2473-2479)

Working Bibliography for fourth paper due at beginning of class

Week Fourteen

M 4/16

NA:  Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Part I  (C2329-2372)

W 4/18

NA:  Pope, “An Essay on Criticism” (C2505-2525)

F 4/20

NA:  Pope, “Rape of the Lock” and “Essay on Man”  (C2525-2544, 2554-2562)

Week Fifteen

M 4/23

NA:  Johnson, Rasselas (C2660-2662, 2678-2701), from “Preface” to A Dictionary of the English Language and “The Preface” to Shakespeare (C2719-2736); Boswell, from The Life of Samuel Johnson (C2749-2765)

T 4/24

Fourth paper (a 5-page thematic paper with outside resources) due in my mailbox in Smith 128D by 2pm

W 4/25

Sheridan, The School for Scandal, Acts 1-3

F 4/27

Sheridan, The School for Scandal, Acts 4-5


Final Exam is Apr 30, 1:00 p.m.-02:50 p.m.



Recommended Online Materials

*   The Oxford English Dictionary, an etymological dictionary that provides the history of how definitions change over time, is available at http://dictionary.oed.com/.  (Be aware that you can only access this site through a Penn State server because it is a subscription service).

*   The MLA Bibliography is a worldwide index of references to journal articles, dissertations, books, and parts of books pertaining to all literatures, folklore, film, drama, language, and linguistics.  The site is found at http://www.lcspub.psu.edu/scripts/linklias.exe?where=Go+There&What=ERLMLA.  (Be aware that you can only access this site through a Penn State server because it is a subscription service).

*   Full Text Electronic Resources, at http://www.libraries.psu.edu/iasweb/fiscal_data/FULLTXT.htm, provides a list (with links) of scholarly journals whose articles are available online.

*   Luminarium, an on-line “anthology” of Medieval, Renaissance, and Seventeenth-century British literature, at http://www.luminarium.org/lumina.htm, provides cultural and biographical background, on-line texts of primary works, and links to scholarly articles and books.

*   “Norton Topics Online,” at http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/welcome.htm, offers additional background materials designed to complement the readings available in the anthology.

*   Renaissance Women Online, at http://www.wwp.brown.edu/texts/rwoentry.html, includes 100 Renaissance texts written by women, together with contextual introductions and topical essays on women's life and writing in the Renaissance.  (Be aware that you can only access this site through a Penn State server because it is a subscription service).

*   Voice of the Shuttle is an online metasite, at http://vos.ucsb.edu/shuttle/eng-ren.html, with many, many links to authors and works of the period.



[Teaching Experience]