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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Todd A Rygh
ENGL 228
Seattle Campus

English Literary Culture: To 1600

British literature from Middle Ages to end of sixteenth century. Study of literature in its cultural context, with attention to changes in language, form, content, and style.

Class description

Writing in New Literary History, Charles Altieri comments, "students must experience the reading of poetry as a sensuous indulgence that turns into the delights of staging ourselves as different identities." One of the pleasures of reading poetry, therefore, is the permission it grants the reader to crawl out of his or her own skin and to imagine the world through the eyes of another. Taking Altieri's dictum to heart, this course will use poetry as a means to venture through the uneven contours of medieval and early modern England's emotional and spiritual geography. We will pay special attention to medieval and early modern poetry of love (where the will is overcome by the desire for another,) murder (where the will is driven to take another's life,) and God (where the will is directed towards, fused with, or thwarted by the a desire for God.) The poems themselves will appear to us as an invitation to try on for size--to stage, in the words of Altieri--the feelings and thoughts of other people, all long dead, as they surrendered themselves to adoration, to wrath, or to the sinking pull of the ineffable.

The course's reading will be organized historically: we begin in the Anglo-Saxon world, reading Beowulf in its entirety. Moving into the lyric poetry of the Late Middle Ages, the class will then take up selections drawn from the Pearl manuscript ("Pearl" and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,”) and Chaucer ("The Book of the Duchess" and selections from The Canterbury Tales.) The course will conclude in the verse of the English Renaissance, reading the great majority of Shakespeare's sonnets, in addition to selections from the metaphysical poetry of John Donne and George Herbert.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Grading is based on three short papers, a group project, and weekly reflections posted to the course website.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Todd A Rygh
Date: 03/05/2008