2019 - 2020

  Introduction to British Culture 1  
Jonathan StavskyWebb - School of Languages001 Mon1000-1200 Sem  2
Webb - School of Languages001 Mon1000-1200 Sem  2
University credit hours:  4.0

Course description

Introduction to British Culture I

Required BA Course (2019–2020) / Dr. Jonathan Stavsky

What did the English language sound like over a thousand years ago? Why is it so different today? Has British culture always enjoyed the same global prestige? What are its sources? How did it come to assert itself? What was it like to be a woman in the fourteenth century? Is Shakespeare really the greatest love poet? Can texts written in the remote past speak to present readers? These are some of the questions asked, and partly answered, by this survey of English literature from its earliest medieval records to the Renaissance and beyond. It aims to familiarize you with some of the best poetry and drama ever produced in England and to give you the tools to understand, enjoy, and take further courses on the works you will study. By the end of the semester, you should be able to identify, analyze, contextualize, and trace the development of their forms, themes, and ideologies.

Reading Material

The following works will be taught: Beowulf*; Marie de France’s Lais*; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales*; Everyman; Spenser’s The Faerie Queene*; Renaissance love sonnets*; Shakespeare’s Sonnets*, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet; and Milton’s Paradise Lost* (texts marked with an asterisk will be read in selections). In addition, you must read the assigned introductions to each period and work covered by the course. All texts will be made available on the course website. To ensure your success on the exams, you must work exclusively with the prescribed editions or translations.


  • Regular attendance during the entire course, including make-up classes (10%);
  • A midterm exam (30%), where you will be asked to identify and explicate passages from texts studied in the first part of the course;
  • A longer final exam (60%) that includes (a) identification and explication of passages from texts studied in the second part of the course and (b) an essay on two works, one from each part.

To pass this course, you must attend the required number of classes and receive a passing grade on both the midterm and the final exam.


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