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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Anne Savage

Email: savage@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 326

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23729


Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30-2:30, Thursday 10:30-12:20

Course Objectives:


A survey mapping the history of English literature from its origins to the present. Students will be introduced to literary historical periods, genres, and critical approaches to works by canonical and non-canonical authors. The scope of this course will permit us to trace several cultural narratives, including the rise and fall of empire, shifting performances of gender and sexuality, the emergence of ideas of nation and selfhood, and the birth of consumer society. We will consider how a literary text is an expression of a particular cultural moment, with all its social and material preoccupations, and yet makes meaning through a complex dialogue with traditions of writing from the past. The course will place considerable emphasis on developing critical skills in reading and writing. In Term 2 you will have an opportunity to revise your major essay.



This course aims to accomplish the following:

  • familiarize you with the history of British and Commonwealth writing in several genres (poems, plays, and novels, but also a travel narrative, an autobiography, a political treatise, and a radio comedy series), and to explore how and why writers have been reworking inherited forms

  • introduce you to key historical and social contexts for literature of different periods

  • develop your skills at close textual analysis, encouraging you to read slowly, for detail and nuance

  • provide a toolbox of technical critical terms that will help you understand and explain how literature works

  • investigate some influential theoretical frameworks for literary study (e.g. feminist, postcolonial)

  • give you the opportunity to improve your writing skills, by offering guidance in the art of writing clear, well-argued, and well-supported analyses and arguments.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Concise Edition, Volumes A and B.

First Year English and Cultural Studies Handbook. This handbook, prepared by the Department of English and Cultural Studies, is available on-line at no cost:


This handbook contains crucial information on essay writing, documentation, and how to avoid plagiarism. All students in Level I English and Cultural Studies courses should read this handbook before the end of September.

Optional: The Little Penguin Handbook, ed. L. Faigley (Pearson Educational)

Explanations of common writing difficulties and errors will help you understand and revise your written assignments before you hand them in and after you get them back with comments.

Method of Assessment:

Essay 1, 500 words: topics circulated in tutorial the week of Sept. 30, essays due in tutorial the

     week of Oct. 14: 5%

Essay 2, 1000 words: topics circulated the week of Nov. 4,  essays due in tutorial the week of

     Nov. 25: 15%

essays due in the first tutorial in January:15%

Essay 3, 2000 words: topics circulated the week of Jan. 20: 25%

Tutorial grade: 15%

December Exam (in exam period): 20%

April Exam (in exam period): 20%


All essays are due at the beginning of your tutorial in the relevant week indicated above. If your essay is handed in after this time (including any time after the tutorial has begun) it will be docked one grade-point a day. For example, if an essay is worth a B+, but was handed in a day late, it will be given a B; two days, a B-; three days, a C+; and so on up to seven days. Saturdays and Sundays count as working days. This means: start working on your essay as soon as you receive your assignment description so you can hand it in on time.

Please consult the First Year English and Cultural Studies Handbook, available online from the departmental website, for further information about your assignments, including the required format for the bibliography and quotations.

Always keep your own copy of any assignment that you turn in for grading.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

1C06 TERM 1

In this half of the course we will look at literature in England from the earliest form of the language, Old English, through Anglo-French, Middle English, Early Modern English into the eighteenth century. Our goal is a broad understanding of the different forms literature took over these centuries, and a closer acquaintance with representative works.

Students will be asked to look closely at issues arising from reading literature in older forms, from past cultures: these have been, especially in the case of Old English and Anglo-French in our edition, extensively edited with footnotes so as to make them accessible to you in every case. How do we understand literature from these earlier periods, through such heavy insulation from their strangeness by expert mediations? What aspects of past culture are still necessary to consider, if we want to begin to approach them intelligently?

Slow reading is a skill which I intend you to work on throughout the term: most of our general reading is for the purpose of scanning vast amounts of information for salient points; reading older literature is for the purpose of understanding subtleties in kinds of expression. This demands multiple readings of the same text at a slower pace, as though we were looking for some camouflaged items in a foreign landscape. Acquiring a new habit is always difficult, so please be patient and keep trying. Then keep trying some more. This skill, once acquired, can be applied in other contexts: sensitivity to tone, context and culture is a valuable skill in a multicultural society, in a global culture.

Required text for term 1: The Broadview Anthology of English Literature. Be sure to read “The Medieval Period” (pages 1-30) as information on our literary works before 1500 or so, and “The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century” (pages 465-516) for our later ones. “Culture: a Portfolio” (698-715) is excellent background for the Elizabethan period through the seventeenth century, and “The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century” (pages 1001-1038) will carry over into Dr. Merrit’s part of the course in term 2.



4 Introduction to course and materials. For next classes, read Beowulf, lines 2200 – end.

9 Beowulf in the context of Anglo-Saxon culture. When we read the translation in The Broadview Anthology, what work had to be done before it could be made? Look at the first page of the manuscript on p. 64 of your text. For next class, read the brief examples of different versions posted on Avenue to Learn. Consider the given sample of Old English these versions translate.

11 Your first assignment: expectations. A commentary on Beowulf.

16 A commentary on Beowulf continued.

18 The transition from Old English to Middle English language and culture.

23 Medieval romance: Marie de France, Lanval and the French of England

25 Sir Orfeo

[Next week: assignment #1 will be handed out in tutorials.]

30  Geoffrey Chaucer: see in The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales:  the portrait of The Wife of Bath; Prologue to The Wife of Bath’s Tale



2 The Wife of Bath’s Tale, commentary. 

7 Medieval drama: The Second Shepherd’s Play

9 The Second Shepherd’s Play

[Next week: Assignment #1 due in tutorials]

14 Why are there sonnets? See under Glossary of terms pp. 1648-49. Terminology: prosody, scansion.

Sir Thomas Wyatt: “The long love, that in my heart doth harbor,”#10, p. 533

Michael Drayton: “Since there’s no help, come, let us kiss and part,” # 61, pp. 551-52

William Shakespeare: “That time of year thou may’st in me behold,” #73, p. 801

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” #130, p. 806

16 Sonnets continued.

21 Renaissance drama. Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus

23 Dr. Faustus

28 The Discovery of Witchcraft and A Discourse of the Subtle practice of Devils (page 710)

[Oct. 30-Nov.1 Midterm recess: no classes

Next week:  assignment #1 returned to students in tutorials; topics for Essay 2 handed out in tutorials]



4 Some metaphysical poets: John Donne, “The Flea” (page 831) “The Relic” (835) and Andrew Marvel, “To His Coy Mistress” (page 883)

6 Political and religious contexts: John Donne “Satire 3,” (pages 838-39)

11 Continued.

13 John Milton: Paradise Lost, Book 1

18 Paradise Lost

20 Alexander Pope: The Rape of the Lock

[Next week: assignment #2 due in tutorials]

25 The Rape of the Lock

27 and DECEMBER 2:  How to write the final examination for this half of the course.

Other Course Information:


Your instructors and TAs are dedicated to providing an excellent learning environment for you in this course. In return, we expect a high level of commitment and hard work from you. You are responsible for your learning and are expected to participate actively in this course: it is through the effective collaboration of your instructors, your TAs, your fellow students, and you that the course operates effectively.

There is no “textbook” that supplies all the answers for this course: humanities courses value the classroom as a space of transformative learning for students. Plan to attend all lectures and tutorials so that you will be appropriately prepared for your assignments and exams. Here are some tips for how to succeed in this course:

  • TAs and instructors do not supply lecture and tutorials notes: you are responsible for attending class and making notes. If you are unable to attend a class, ask a fellow student for notes.

  • Materials for your mid-year and final exams are made up of the lectures, tutorials, your notes, and all the course readings.

  • As you do your assigned readings, take notes about the content, write down your observations about themes and other ideas presented, and make note of any questions or comments that you can bring to your tutorials for discussion.

  • In tutorials you are expected to participate actively in class discussions: using your reading notes, asking questions, making comments, working in groups and pairs in class as required.

  • Do not start your essays the night before! Take the time to do a good job. The best essays are the result of careful revision. Consult with your TA in advance for advice about your thesis statement and/or an essay outline to make sure that you are on the right track.

  • If you are having problems in this course talk with your TA. Be aware, too, that academic advisors in your faculty office are available to help.