English 251 General Syllabus

Basic Information

English 251 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 the Romantic period to the present.

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 late eighteenth century to the present [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 251 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 Romantic Period (1785-1830)

First Generation Romantic writers [William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel T. Coleridge, Mary Wallstonecraft, etc.]: The literature of vision; the literature of social protest, including women’s rights and economically undervalued people’s rights; the literature of new voice critiquing humans and their relation to various environments; the literature of revolution, connected with events in the French Revolution.


Second Generation Romantic writers [Lord George Gordon Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, John Keats]: The romantic hero in context; the romantic sensibility; literature as change agent in the social order; the ode in its literary context; the connection between art and literature.

The Victorian Period (1830-1901)

Poetic voices of the period [Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christiana Rossetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins, etc.]: The sonnet and dramatic monologue in context; the conflicts of medievalism and social progress; the connection between art and literature; the critique of philosophical/religious institutions.


Prose writing of the period [Thomas Carlyle, John Henry Newman, John Stewart Mill, John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Charles Darwin, etc.]: The birth and growth of modern skepticism with institutions; the notions of liberal education and the place of the university in the modern world; the critical study of art and artists; the role of science as a shaper of modern thought; industrialization and its effects on the modern world; men’s and women’s roles in modern society.

The Twentieth Century and After (1901-Present)

The literature of World Wars I and II [Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Henry Reed, etc.]: Understanding English identity in a European context; the critique of government policies; realism as a vehicle for changing attitudes toward war.


The birth of a modernist literature [T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, etc.]: The connection between existential thought and poetic expression; the critique of literary canons and the gender mechanisms inherent in literary traditions; the identity of the “modern” human.


The critique of British and world colonialism [Joseph Conrad, Salman Rushdie, Derek Walcott, Chinua Achebe, etc.]: The impact of a British literary tradition in a non-British world; the critique of British colonialism as a racial, economic, and social system in Africa, India, and the Caribbean; the tensions between native and British identities; the development of a post-colonial identity.


The birth of a post-modern literature [Seamus Heaney, Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter, Geoffrey Hill, etc.]: Reflections upon modern life and meaning in context; the conflictual representation of past and present, often dissolving the reality of time markers; critique of familial/social institutions; literature both as a creator and reflector of external realities.

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

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