The Purpose of the Course

  • To give students an overview of English literature from the Middle Ages to the present
  • To introduce them to a variety of historical perspectives and critical approaches
  • To permit them to strengthen and apply their writing skills to the study of literature
  • To enable students to deepen their interest and enjoyment in the study and use of English

Course Description
This course provides an enriched survey of the major genres, historical periods, and critical approaches to English for students with a particular interest in literature and culture. In lecture and small group tutorials, you will study poetry, prose, and drama with special emphasis on developing superior analytical and writing skills.

Major works of Canadian as well as English literature such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Anne Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces are examined against the backdrop of major events and developments in Western and North American culture, including the Renaissance, the rise of Romanticism, the emergence of European Imperialism, and the genocides of the twentieth century.

Because English literature has always been a crucible (or crossroads) where elements drawn from every field of human activity meet, interact, and find imaginative expression, the course continually focuses on the ethical, philosophical, political, and environmental aspects of the works studied and relates them to shifting ideas and practices in economics, psychology, and other areas, as well as, of course, the other arts. The course also focuses on a wide range of literary forms and genres such as comedy, satire, tragedy, the novel, the sonnet, and the epic not only because these are the vehicles that give shape and impart meaning to imaginative expression, but also because they are a means of coming to an understanding and appreciation of the continuity of literature across time and, indeed, across cultures.

In essays and discussion, students are encouraged to engage independently and critically with the materials studied and, by doing so, to achieve a high level of writing and analytical skill. Teaching consists of a combination of wide-ranging but sharply focused lectures delivered by the instructor to the group as a whole, followed by tutorials conducted in a seminar format that explore and discuss specific literary and critical issues.


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