Britain, Ireland, and their archipelago were home to an exceptionally vibrant early literary tradition spanning English, French, Irish, Latin, Norse, and other languages. Writing from these islands connected rulers and rebels, merchants and monks, brewers and bureaucrats. This course is a survey of ‘British’ literature (we’ll question the term) from the beginnings to 1700. Most texts are in English; some are read in translation. The course focuses on connections between literature, power, and the formation of literary canons. The survey covers all major genres of early literature from the archipelago. Texts and authors include Beowulf, Marie de France, Chaucer, Margery Kempe, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and Behn.


Literature before “literature”
Bards and beer halls
Monks and scholars
Clerics and kings, history and magic
Ladies, monsters, and courtly love
Rebels, truthseekers, and the status quo
London lawyers and bureaucrats
Visionaries and prisoners
The English royal court
Lovers and believers
Dissenters, Puritans, and a rake

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