Section 1: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 1:00-1:50 PM

Professor: Adam Beach

This course is designed to introduce you to both British literature from the Middle Ages to the middle of the 18th Century and to the practice of active, interpretive reading. In order to make the undertaking more manageable, we will trace several themes throughout the semester, themes that emerge again and again in the course of British literature. The most prominent theme, one shared by most national literatures, is an obsession by the question of the “nation” or community. Writers in the British tradition often worked to create a distinctly English—and then British—literary tradition and, through that literature, to describe what the nation should be. Key questions include the following: What kind of men should make up the nation? What kind of women? (And, what might marginalized women writers have to say about the community from its periphery?) What kinds of relationships should be generated with those outside the nation altogether? These questions have always been important in the British Isles as the English people expanded historically to incorporate the Celtic areas of Wales, Scotland and Ireland into the United Kingdom and as exploration and the settling of colonies brought the English into contact with other peoples abroad. Living as we do in a former British colony, these questions can help us think about the ways we have constructed our own communities, our own nation, and our own empire.

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