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ENGLISH 1C06B History Of English Literature

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. James King

Email: jking@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 316

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24493

Office Hours: Tuesday 12:30pm

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.

As a way of introducing a sense of continuity to the course material, special attention will be paid throughout to the notion of the hero. What is a hero? What does s/he represent? How has the idea of the hero changed throughout the course of English literature?


This course aims to:

familiarize you with the history of British and Commonwealth writing in several genres including narrative poetry, lyrical poetry, drama and the novel 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:


An Anthology from Broadview Press prepared by James King

Shakespeare, Othello (Oxford World’s Classics)

Shelley, Frankenstein (Penguin)

Austen, Northanger Abbey (Oxford World’s Classics)

Brontë, Jane Eyre (Penguin)

Conrad, Heart of Darkness


Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, Heart of Darkness and selections from the Broadview Anthology

Method of Assessment:


Essay 1, 500 words: topics circulated in the week of September 25-29, essays due in tutorial the week of Oct. 16-20: 5%

Essay 2, 1000 words: topics circulated in the week of October 30-November 3, essays due in tutorial the week of Nov. 20-24: 15%

Essay 3, 2000 words: topics circulated in the week of January 29-February 2, essays due in tutorial the week of March 5-9: 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.

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:


All readings, except where noted, are from The Compact Broadview Anthology

Thursday Sept. 5: Classes begin: Introduction to the course

September 12: Beowulf

September 19: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

September 26: Chaucer: “The Nuns’ Priests’ Tale”

October 3: John Donne: “The Good-Morrow”, “The Canonisation”, “The Flea”, “Holy Sonnet XIV”

October 17, 24: Shakespeare, Othello (Oxford World’s Classics)

November 7, November 1: Milton, Book IX of Paradise Lost

November 14: Dryen: Absalom and Achitophel

November 21: Pope, The Rape of the Lock

November 28, December 5: Shelley, Frankenstein (Oxford World’s Classics)

Reminder: you will write a mid-year exam (20%) during the December exam period.



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.