English 250 General Syllabus

Basic Information

English 250 Section TBA

British Literary Tradition

Credit Hours: 3

Course Prerequisites: English 110-112 or English 111-112 with an earned grade of C or higher.

Instructor’s Name: TBA

Instructors Office Address, Email Address, Office Hours, and Office Phone Number: TBA

Textbook and Related Materials:

Greenblatt, Stephen and M.H. Abrams, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2012.


[The department permits other standard anthologies such as the Longman Anthology of British Literature.]

Course Purpose, Goals, and Objectives

Course Description

British Literary Tradition (3) English literature from Beowulf through the Neoclassic period.

General Course Objectives (Keyed to General Education Learning Outcomes)

Students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Employ various critical and analytical methods (e.g., close reading, historical and linguistic analysis, ideological analysis) in the study of literary texts from a variety of genres and historical periods through written assignments [LOC 1, 4].
  2. Analyze important primary texts from British literature from the seventh through the eighteenth century [LOC 2].
  3. Interpret literary texts as shapers, reflectors, and instruments of change of cultural phenomena (e.g., value systems, familial/social institutions, government and their policies, philosophical/religious institutions) [LOC 3, 4, 5]
  4. Analyze literary texts for personal aesthetic pleasure and the enjoyment of language [LOC 1]
  5. Analyze the contributions of literary texts within various societies and how these have impacted history and the human condition [LOC 6]
  6. Employ a comparative approach in the analysis of the literature of Britain and the expression of those ideas within a global literary context, particularly focusing on the interplay of ideas and forms [LOC 4, 5]
  7. Recognize diversity in literature, based on race, ethnicity, economic status, and gender across historical periods as important to the understanding of local and global culture [LOC 5]

Outline of Course Content

[Individual Instructor decisions may vary slightly from section to section, but the emphasis is upon the canon in which the specific ideas noted above can be observed, examined, and analyzed.]


All sections of English 250 will:

  1. Involve students in critical reading to facilitate active engagement with texts. Students will read approximately 50 pages each week.
  2. Involve students with the full range of literary periods, and genres and styles—in connection with global models—within those periods appropriate to the course.

The Medieval Period (7th Century-1485)

Beowulf (The epic in its context)


Selected Old English poetry and prose: The social construction of early history; analysis of heroic Germanic society.


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: The romance in its context; Arthur in context.


Geoffrey Chaucer [Selected Canterbury Tales]: The construction of fiction, gender roles, social organization, relations of forms to European and Near Eastern models.


Selected representations of the literature of vision [Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, William Langland]: Mystical vision in context; the role of women in social and religious institutions; literature of social protest and reflection.

The Renaissance (Early Modern Period, 1485-1660)

More’s Utopia: The construction of social forms, governments, economic systems; the role of satire.


Selected poetry of the period (the sonnet, lyric, epic)

  1. The sonnets of Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney, Spenser, etc.: Relations to the Italian poetry of Petrarch; attention to various sonnet forms; the production and distribution of literary texts.
  2. The lyric of the period: Relations to European forms; connections between literature and music.
  3. The epic of Spenser and Milton: The epic in its context; historical, ideological, and literary treatment of biblical material; the examination of social and political processes.

Shakespeare [The selection of the play may differ, but typically a comedy or tragedy.]: Tragedy or comedy in context; the theater as a social, artistic, and economic force; attention to characterization, language, and style; Shakespeare’s role in his day and beyond as a “global writer.”


Selected prose of discovery [Raleigh, Drake, Hariot, etc.]: The literature of exploration in context; critique of value and cultural systems; examination of colonial processes; the construction of ethnicity, race, and gender.


Selected poetry and prose dealing with religion [Donne, Herbert, Hooker, the English Bible, Crashaw, etc.]: The European Reformation and its impact on English religion; the development of a reformed religious language; connections between art and literature.


Selected poetry and prose of classical decorum [Jonson, Bacon, Burton, Hobbes, Phillips, etc]: Relation of literature to classical Greek and Roman models; the development of modern scientific and medical discourse; the development of modern political discourse.

The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1798)

Dryden [Selected poetry and prose]: Satiric form in context; examination of political institutions and human relationships to them; development of an English critical practice differing from continental models.


Behn’s Oronooko: The British colonial enterprise and the role of slavery; the relationship between fact and fiction; the development of a female voice in writing.


Swift: Travel literature in context; satire in context; the exploration of governmental processes; exploration of scientific thought; critique of colonial enterprise [England vs. Ireland].


Pope: Satire in context; the epic and mock heroic form in context; relationship of literature as a force to shape external realities; exploration of philosophical notions of happiness.


Johnson: The philosophical novel in context; the Near Eastern tale and relationship to Johnson’s writing.

Course Requirements/Expectations

Grading Procedures

Individual sections of the course may differ, but each section will have at least two in-class exams, part of which will include essay writing. In addition, each student will engage in other relevant writing activities. Over the course of the semester, students write at least 10 pages of finished written work outside of exams, focused particularly on literary texts. Finished writing may be done in or outside of class. Some writing may include work with secondary sources.

Signature Assessment for Student Learning Outcomes in the Humanities


  1. A four-to six-page double-spaced paper that is a critical analysis of a single text with a synthesis in light of its literary, historical, and cultural contexts (LOC 2, 3, 4, and 5).
  2. The paper could examine either a poem, play, section of a novel, or short story as determined by either the instructor or instructor and student in collaboration (LOC 2).
  3. Since the paper must involve an engagement with “critical and analytical methodologies of the humanities,” the instructor builds in instruction on use of secondary sources, not limited to procedure, but how to evaluate those sources relative to their theoretical understanding of the selected primary text (LOC 1).
  4. The assignment requires students to use 2-3 secondary sources and requires 4-6 in-text citations of the secondary sources’ ideas in the form of summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations about the effectiveness of those ideas in solving the interpretive dilemmas at those points. At the same time, students will be assessed on their direct engagement with the primary text through analysis of words, phrases, and sentences on one level and an overall impact of the literary text as a complete unit of meaning at a second level. (A rubric will be used to determine the effectiveness of the analysis of both primary text and also with handling of ideas from secondary sources reflective of the humanities methodology) (LOC 1, 2).
  5. In establishing a context for the explication of a single text, students comment on cultures, values, institutional forms (e.g., country, religion, family, gender, race, sexuality) that connect not only to the historical period of the selection, but also how those expressions cohere or disconnect across the sweep of time (LOC 3, 4, 5, and 6).
  6. While the explication of a text is sometimes thought to simplify meaning, the purpose of the assignment is to examine the complex relationship of words and ideas in the text as an example of a cultural moment in which it was written as well as how it speaks to speaks to modern audiences (LOC 4, 5, and 6).

Class Policies

Students are expected to attend class regularly. Policies regarding class attendance and make up exams will vary with the instructor, but all are within the handbook guidelines. The English Department has adopted the National Writing Project definition of plagiarism.

Disabilities Statement

Any student eligible for and requesting reasonable accommodations due to a disability is required to provide a letter of accommodation from the Student Success Center.


Revised Fall 2016

University Catalog

See what we have to offer

Search Now >

EMFL Writing Award Winners

See what we have to offer

View Now >