JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "English Literature I: Literary Beginnings to Milton"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Shannon Russell
EMAIL: srussell@johncabot.edu
HOURS: TTH 8:30 AM 9:45 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN 110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

The course deals with works by major writers in the English language over a period of nearly one thousand years. Beginning with Anglo-Saxon poetry, this survey continues through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concludes with Milton. In the context of the course, students should develop both their general background knowledge of literary history as well as their ability to appreciate and criticize particular texts. This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students in 200-level literature classes are required to produce 4-5,000 words of critical writing.
This course deals with works by major writers in the English language over a period of nearly one thousand years. Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton are represented in a survey of literature which begins with Anglo-saxon poetry, continues through the writing of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and concludes with a study of Milton’s Paradise Lost

In the context of the course, students should develop both their general background knowledge of literary history as well as their ability to appreciate and criticize particular texts. The importance and depiction of women in this literature as well as emerging work by women will also be a special focus of the course. By the end of the course, students should have a good historical foundation for more advanced study in these literary periods.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Broadview Anthology of English Literature: Volume 1Black et al.Broadview9781554812028/155481202X  
Broadview Anthology of English Literature: Volume 2Black et al.Broadview9781554812905/1554812909  

Two Essays 2,000-2,500 words each, typedEssays need to conform to MLA style guidelines and include peer-reviewed research. The first essay will count for 20% and the second essay for 25% of the final grade.45%
Reader response/Initiation of Class DiscussionStudents will prepare a response to the reading assignment for the day and will be responsible for initiating class discussion. For the second assignment they will be asked to analyze a sonnet in class, and to submit their work on the poem selected.10% (two times of 5% each)
Mid-term examThe format of the mid-term is dependent on what Covid restrictions are in place at the time. 15%
Final Exam 20%
Participation Grades for participation do not include attendance. Attendance is mandatory and grades are not given for simply for appearance in class. Participation grades are calculated on class contributions which demonstrate intelligent engagement with the assigned readings. . 5%
PresentationStudents are required to produce a visual and oral presentation where they will speak for 10-15 minutes on a subject to be assigned at the beginning of the semester.5%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cours
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Attendance is mandatory. At three absences your overall grade for the course is automatically lowered by a grade point; for example a student with a B average overall will achieve a final grade of B-.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Note:  Additional material for the course is available on the Moodle.


Week 1

Tues. Jan 19

Introduction to the course and discussion of requirements

To get a sense of the historical lead up to the period we cover, please view the first episode from Simon Schaa's History of Britain series -- On RESERVE in the library

Thurs. Jan. 21


Old English Riddles and Charms in the anthology

Abbess Hild of Whitby: “The Miraculous Poet Caedmon” and "Caedmon's Hymn" that follows.

"The Dream of the Rood"

"The Wanderer"

What is litotes?

What are kennings?

Find examples of both in your readings.

Recommended reading in addition to poetry:  

The Medieval Period

Week 2

Tues.  Jan. 26

 "The Wife's Lament"

"The Seafarer"

Schedule sign-up for Reader Response/Seminars today.

Thurs. Jan. 28

Anglo-Norman England: Arthurian Romance and Female Fairy Worlds

Marie de France  "Lanval" and "Bisclavret" (The Werewolf)


Week 3

Tues. Feb. 2

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 

Recommended Reading in addition to "Gawain"

In Context: The Crises of the 14th century

Thurs. Feb. 4

 Chaucer:  From The Canterbury Tales 

The General Prologue

The Miller's Tale

Recommended Reading in addition to Chaucer selections

In Context: Love and Marriage in Medieval Britain

Week 4

Tues. Feb. 9


The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

Thurs. Feb. 11                  

Piers Plowman 

Recommended Reading for Tuesday.  In Context:  Religious and Spiritual Life 

For Thurs:  View Simon Schama selection on The Plague

Week 5

Tues. Feb. 16      FIRST ESSAY DUE

The Plague, Visionary Women, Dream Visions and Religious Allegory

Julian of Norwich from A Revelation of Love

Margery Kempe from The Book of Margery Kempe

In addition to the reading view Simon Schama's History of Britain series Disc 2 Episode:  King Death

Thurs. Feb. 18

Thomas Mallory: Selections from Morte D'Arthur

Week 6

Tues. Feb. 23     Everyman 

Thurs. Feb. 25     MID-TERM EXAM (Format to be determined)


Week 7

Tues. March 2

Thomas More's Utopia 

Thurs. March 4

Sidney's Defense of Poetry

Castiglione's The Courtier  - The Ladder of Love section

Week 8  MARCH BREAK March 9-13

Week 9

Tues. March 16

Spenser's The Shepherd's Calendar

The Faerie Queen  Book II Canto 12 "The Bower of Bliss"

Recommended Reading:  In Context "Culture"

Thurs. March 18

Read all of the sonnets in the anthology by:

Sir Thomas Wyatt (detailed discussion on "Whoso List to Hunt" and Spenser's Sonnet 67 in "Amoretti" sequence

Sir Philip Sidney (detailed discussion on 1, 7, and 71)

Shakespeare (detailed discussion of 130, 116, 147)

Week 10

Tues. March 23

The Sonnet


1. Shakespeare Sonnet 29

2. Spenser Sonnet 75 and Shakespeare's Sonnet 60 (compare)

3. Sidney Sonnet 52

4. Shakespeare Sonnet 20

5. Shakespeare Sonnet 147

6. Milton's "On His Blindness"

Note: Those who do not present on this day will be assigned another day, at a rate of one presentation a day until all have presented.

Thurs. March 25

Poetic Dialogues on Sex, Marriage Anxiety and The Pastoral Ideal.

Christopher Marlowe “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

Sir Walter Ralegh “The Nymphs Reply to the Shepherd”

John Donne “The Bait”

Robert Herrick “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”

Andrew Marvell “To His Coy Mistress”

 “Corinna’s Going A-Maying”

Thomas Carew “A Rapture”

Sir John Suckling "A Ballad Upon a Wedding"

Katherine Philips "A Married State"

Week 11

Tues. March 30

Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus

Thurs. April 1

 Shakespeare King Lear

Week 12

Tues. April 6

 Shakespeare King Lear

Thurs. April 8

Thomas Hobbes Selections from Leviathan

Ben Jonson's "Clerimont's Song" "Song to Celia"

"Inviting a Friend to Supper" and "To Penshurt";

Read Herrick "Delight in Disorder"

Amelia Lanyer's "The Description of Cooke-ham" (the first Country House poem)

Week 13
Tues. April 13

Read Herbert's "Easter Wings"

 "The Pulley"

 "The Altar"

Thurs. April 15  SECOND ESSAY DUE

John Donne

"The Flea"

"A Valediction Forbidding Mourning"

"Elegy 19. To His Mistress Going to Bed"

"Good Friday, 1613 Riding Westward"

Week 14

Tues. April 20                                

John Donne continued

Tues. April 22  

John Milton Paradise Lost

Week 15

Tues. April 27

John Milton Paradise Lost

Thurs. April 29

John Milton Paradise Lost     

Final Exams May 3-7