ENGLISH 317 - Literature and Culture
Fall 2021, Section 006 - Foes of Power
Instruction Mode: Section 006 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Details

Credits:
3
Requirements & Distribution:
HU
Waitlist Capacity:
unlimited
Repeatability:
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Description

This is a course in the first thousand years of the literature of Britain (7th-17th century). Although we will consider a wide range of topics, the two main through-lines will be 1) the topic announced in the course title—social and political hierarchy, with special emphasis on its challengers—and 2) human interactions with other aspects of the natural world—from microbes (the Black Death), through animals both real and supernatural, to climate (the Little Ice Age). How do writers understand our relation both to a repeatedly destabilized social order and to its larger environmental setting, a setting that is partly responsible for that destabilization?

To address this question, we will also consider social, economic, and political conditions over the course of a millennium. In Leviathan (1651), the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes warned that life could easily be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In the first 1000 years of English literature, this was in fact the lot of the vast majority of the population. How did these “have-nots” challenge the cruel and unequal conditions of their existence—politically and socially, sexually and scatologically? How did the “haves” respond—repression, indifference, accommodation, guilt, repentance? We’ll consider literary accounts of a number of such antagonisms that pit insider against outsider—human vs. monster, old vs. young, man vs. woman, king vs. people, religious orthodoxy vs. heterodoxy, and especially upper class vs. lower.

Throughout, the aim is to define the nature of various literary genres (for instance, epic, romance, prose fiction, and drama), in relation to the cultures and societies from which they emerge (tribal, courtly/feudal, royal absolutist, urban commercial, etc.).

Most of our texts are from Old, Middle, and Early Modern English. But we will also consider relevant literature in Anglo-Norman (a version of Old French), Italian, Latin, and French to pursue ecological and social concerns as well as to answer another question: how did the literature of Britain become English literature?

Readings—Beowulf, Marie de France’s Lais (selections), Boccaccio’s Decameron (selections), Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (selections), More’s Utopia, Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Course Requirements:

3 short papers and a brief oral presentation; no final exam.

Schedule

ENGLISH 317 - Literature and Culture
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
30155
Closed
0
 
-
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
002 (LEC)
 Online
24862
Open
4
 
-
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
004 (LEC)
 In Person
30304
Open
5
 
-
Tu 10:00AM - 1:00PM
005 (LEC)
 In Person
32080
Closed
0
 
-
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
006 (LEC)
 In Person
38112
Open
8
 
-
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi

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CourseProfile (Atlas)

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