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EH 250
Survey of British Literature
MWF 9:30-10:30
Humanities Center 319

This course is a chronological review of selected major works of British literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to the 20th Century. It serves both as an introduction to literary study and as a foundation course for upper-level literature classes. As such, its principal goal is to give students practice reading literary texts in detail and with sophisticated fashion. In an effort to reach this goal, the course has the following specific objectives, the success of which are measured by student performance on reading and writing assignments and on three examinations.

Course Objectives

  • To examine as many major British authors as possible in a single term
  • To explore the intellectual, cultural, and historical contexts of the readings
  • To define and apply literary terms and concepts
  • To introduce a range of critical approaches to literature

Course Policies

Attendance: I expect you to be in class on time, every class meeting, in body and spirit. If you must be absent for any reason, personal or official, it is your responsibility to get a sense of what you missed by talking to your classmates. Please note that every absence beyond four will reduce your final course grade by an entire letter grade. Please also note that absence from class does not absolve you from posting your response to the class discussion board for that day.

Communicating with your Professor: I expect you to communicate with me in real time whenever possible during my office hours. Voice mail and e-mail do not constitute personal contact with me, though if you must leave a message I prefer that you use e-mail. In any case, such messages are not valid excuses for missed exams or assignment due dates or classes. If you must miss class for official College activities, you must make any arrangements with me ahead of time to accommodate your needs. In the case of a medical emergency that affects your work in this course, if I cannot be reached directly, someone should contact the Humanities Secretary on your behalf and she will relay your message as soon as possible.

Honor Code: your signature is required on all examination blue books to serve as a statement that you understand and comply with the Honor Code. Please note that Honor Code violations will result in failure for the assignment in question and may result in failure for the course. All violations will be referred to the Honor Council.

Classroom Behavior: respect your classmates and the process of learning by silencing your cell phone during class and by not bringing food into the classroom. You may bring something to drink if it is spill-proof. The principle to follow in all cases is to keep distractions to a minimum so that the group can concentrate on the analysis and discussion of the text.

Academic Accommodation: If you have a documented disability and need academic accommodations in this course, please speak with me privately as soon as possible so I can be prepared to meet your needs. Students with disabilities seeking accommodations must be registered with the Office of Accessibility, which will provide an academic accommodation letter to registered students who are responsible for sharing the letter and discussing accommodation needs with me. If you have not already registered with the Office of Accessibility, please contact that office as soon as possible at or If you prefer to call the office, the number is (205) 226-7909.


Greenblatt, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors (8th ed.)
Harmon & Holman, eds. A Handbook to Literature (9th ed.) recommended for English majors

Assignments and Assessment

Class Discussion & Recap 10%
Moodle Forum Postings 10%
Response Essay 15%
Exam One 20%
Exam Two 20%
Final Exam 25%

Class Discussion and Recap Assignments: at least once during the term each student will be assigned to initiate the discussion of the readings for the day. In addition, at least once during the term each student will be assigned to recap the major points made by the group during the previous class meeting.

Moodle Forum Postings: study questions will be posted on our class Moodle site at least 48 hours before the class during which the readings will be discussed. Each student is required to post responses to those questions by midnight on the day before the class discussion of those readings. I will evaluate your responses on their engagement with the material, their clarity of expression, and their thoughtfulness. Please note that I am not looking for a “correct” response in any case, but that you will lose points for illogical, shallow, or vague responses. Each posting will be assigned a grade of “distinctive” (100%), “satisfactory” (80%), or “unsatisfactory” (60%). Failure to post a response on time will carry a penalty of a zero for that assignment. Missed postings may not be made up.

Response Essay: this essay of 1200-1500 words will explain what you found most significant about a particular text and why you found it significant, including references to background material and other readings. Do not mistake this for a personal essay. Though your response will be personal--that is, based on your perspective--it must will be grounded in your experience as student of literature, particularly a student in this class. The essay will be submitted in digital form (Microsoft Word) on the class Moodle site, in accordance with MLA style, complete with proper documentation.


08/23 Introduction
08/25 Historical Overview—Medieval and Renaissance

08/28 Beowulf
08/30 Chaucer: “The General Prologue”to The Canterbury Tales
09/01 Chaucer: “The Nun's Priest's Tale”

09/04 Labor Day
09/06 Malory: Morte Darthur
09/08 Shakespeare: the sonnets

09/11 Donne: selected poems
09/13 Jonson and the Cavalier Poets: selected poems
09/15 Milton: “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”

09/18 Milton: “Paradise Lost”
09/20 Historical Overview—Enlightenment and Romanticism
09/22 Rochester: "The Imperfect Enjoyment, and Behn: "The Disappointment"

09/25 Exam: Medieval and Renaissance
09/27 Dryden: “Mac Flecknoe”
09/29 Pope: “The Rape of the Lock”

10/02 Swift: Gulliver’s Travels Books 1 & 2
10/04 Swift: Gulliver’s Travels Books 3 & 4
10/06 Fall Break—no class

10/09 Pope: “An Essay on Criticism”
10/11 Johnson: The Preface to Shakespeare
10/13 Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

10/16 Wordsworth: “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” Response Essay Due
10/18 Wordsworth: “Tintern Abbey” and “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”
10/20 Coleridge: “Christabel” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

10/23 Shelley and Keats: Odes: “West Wind,” “Nightingale,” “Melancholy,” “Grecian Urn”
10/25 Blake: from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
10/27 Historical Overview—Victorian Age and Modernism

10/30 Exam: Enlightenment and Romanticism
11/01 Tennyson: “The Lady of Shalott,” “Ulysses,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
11/03 Robert Browning: “My Last Duchess” and “The Bishop Orders his Tomb”

11/06 Elizabeth Barrett Browning: selected poems
11/08 Woolf: “Modern Fiction” and “A Room of One’s Own”
11/10 Joyce: “Araby”

11/13 Joyce: “Proteus” from Ulysses
11/15 Lawrence: "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" and "Why the Novel Matters"
11/17 Yeats: selected poems

11/20 Yeats: selected poems
11/22 Thanksgiving Break—no class
11/24 Thanksgiving Break—no class

11/27 Eliot: “Tradition and the Individual Talent”
11/29 Review for the final examination

12/07 (Thursday, 9:00-12:00) Final Examination

John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,