Fragonard, The Reader, c. 1770

Engl 121:A16, 2011

English Literature in Historical Perspective

Autumn Term 2011
Tuesday/Thursday 1400-1520
location: HC 2-11

Instructor: David S. Miall
David.Miall (at)

Office hours: HC 4.27: Tuesdays 3:30-4:15;
Fridays 3:00-4:00 (not Sept 16; Nov 11)

Schedule | Assignments | Other information

Course description

[From Department outline] This course introduces students to post-secondary studies in English by exploring developments in language, literature, and culture in and over time. Students will have opportunities to study particular themes and compare different genres in and across a broad array of texts, placed in their historical contexts, which may range from medieval to contemporary times. The course will examine the conditions under which texts were originally produced and may consider the reception and reshaping of texts in history to the present.

Specifically, in this section we will interrogate the notion of the literary at the outset; the literature of the course will then be organized largely in terms of genre (poetry, drama, fiction, including verse narrative). While most of the literature will be drawn from the English tradition, we will also read texts from the Caribbean (Walcott) and Ireland (Heaney). The class will include a number of ungraded writing exercises. Approximately thirty per cent of class time will be devoted to the study and practice of writing in one form or another. Resources for the course will include the Norton literature site: you should register yourself on this using the registration code provided in your edition of the Norton Anthology. See: You are also advised to purchase a good English dictionary, such as the The Canadian Oxford Dictionary.


Required texts and links:

Norton Anthology of English Literature, Major Authors, 8th ed. 2 vols
Paul Headrick, A Method for Writing Essays about Literature. Nelson, 2010


Week Reading Notes
Sept 8 Introductions. Reading. Writing. Subscribing to online resources Literariness
Sept 13 What is literature? A Romantic view: Wordsworth, from Lyrical Ballads: "We Are Seven" (1487), "Lines Written in Early Spring" (1489), “Lines . . . Tintern Abbey” (1491);
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman (Headrick, 110);
Headrick (2. Analytical paragraphs; read sample essays 1 and 2, 82-86)
"Tintern" commentaries
Sept 20 Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight" (1650), "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1615); from Biographia Literaria, Chapters 4 (1660), 14 (1664);
Headrick (3. Theme)
"Frost" study website
Sept 27 What is literature? A Modernist view: D. H. Lawrence, "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" (2590); "Why the Novel Matters" (2601); Woolf, "Modern Fiction" (2429)
Lawrence intro; student notes; Woolf and Modernism
Oct 4

Tuesday, Library session, Rutherford S. 2.03.
Narrative. Conrad, Heart of Darkness (2326). .
Headrick (4. Argument structure)

Conrad: Modernism; Approaches; History
Library Tutorial
Oct 11

Heart of Darkness cont.
Headrick (5. Types of essays [in part:: Literary Analysis, 65-75]; Examples: Mariner, Radcliffe)

Discussion points
Oct 18 Beowulf (26) Headrick reminders
Essay 1, due Oct 20
Oct 25 -- Beowulf cont.
Nov 1 Poetry: Epic. Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1 (725), 4 (778)
Milton, notes
Milton, illustrations
Nov 8 Paradise Lost cont.
Thursday: Remembrance Day break, no class

Milton, notes 2; Milton, notes 3
Nov 15 Drama. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (510)
Headrick (5. Review types of essays; read sample essays 7-8, pp. 100-109; MLA Format, p. 78-80)
Film notes
Nov 22 -- Shakespeare, Twelfth Night cont.
Nov 29 Poetry: Lyric. Shakespeare Sonnets (#18, 488; #60, 502; #73, 503; #129, 507)
Donne, "The Flea" 603; "The Good Morrow" 603; "The Sun Rising" 606; Holy Sonnets 1, 622; 14, 624

Essay II due, Dec 1
Sonnets, notes; Carey on Donne [John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind, & Art (1981)]; "Good Morrow": 1, 2

Dec 6 Walcott (2770); Heaney (2788); wrapup Walcott, Heaney
Dec 20

Tuesday, 2:00. Final Examination (two hours)


Assignments and Examinations

Ther weighting of course work shown below is out of 100%; for the final grade, however, the overall weight of course work is set at 70% while the final exam is worth 30%. You will receive letter grades for your assignments.

Essay I Due October 20 33% 1000 words
Essay II Due Dec 1 67% 2000 words
Final exam Dec 20, 2:00 pm   (2 hours)

The final examination will cover work from the whole course (three essay-type answers will be required).


You will receive letter grades on your assignments.  Conversions are as follows:


Letter Grade

Grade Point Value





































Essay topics

1. (due Oct 20). From the Norton anthology, choose either a short, complete poem from the Romantic period or a modernist short story by Joyce, Woolf, Lawrence, or Mansfield (not previously studied in class). Offer an interpretation, focusing on those aspects of the text that in your view demonstrate its literary character.

2. (due Dec 1). Topics.

Essays should be formatted according to MLA style. This includes the body of the essay as well as your list of references at the end of the essay. Headrick (78) provides a guide.

For help on writing, please visit the Centre for Writers.

Other essential information

Note that all course work must be completed prior to sitting the Final exam, unless urgent medical or personal reasons are provided prior to the date on which the exam is held.

Late submission of essays will not be accepted without compelling medical or personal reason. Essays must be handed to the instructor at the beginning of the class session at which they are due. They must not a) be given to another student to submit, b) put under the instructor's office door, or c) faxed or otherwise attempted to be submitted through the English Department office. An essay submitted in this or any other unauthorized way will be considered as having not been submitted and will receive no grade.

Class attendance and participation are expected and encouraged. Classes will begin promptly at the scheduled time. If you have to miss a class, please contact a class mate (not the instructor) before the next class to find out what you missed. If the instructor is not present within ten minutes of the beginning of class you are expected to carry out the scheduled work to the best of your ability within the allotted class time.

Note that essay writing must be your own work. A student in whose work plagiarism is detected will face serious penalties, as outlined in the code of student conduct (see further below).

You will not be able to make up a missed exam unless you provide a medical certificate or some other compelling personal reason for absence.

Final Examination Appeals. Any request for reappraisal of the Final Examination must be made in writing to the Office of the Registrar, not to the Department of English and Film Studies.

"Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar." (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

"The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University." (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

Students should consult the attached Regulations Pertaining to First-year Courses for information about appeals, reassessments, plagiarism, and external help with assignments.

Should you have any grievances concerning term work grades, you must discuss your concerns with the instructor. No official, in either the Department of English and Film Studies or the Faculty of Arts, will talk to a student about a grading disagreement unless the student first talks to the instructor. If the problem is not resolved after a meeting with the instructor, students are encouraged to talk with the Department's First Year Chair, Professor Brad Bucknell (HC 4-85; 492-7813; <bucknell (at)>). If a resolution is not reached with the First Year Chair, students may make an appointment with the Department Chair (if their instructor is on permanent staff) or with the Department's Associate Chair, Instruction (if their instructor is a GTA or a sessional lecturer). Please note, however, that the Department of English and Film Studies does not allow reconsideration of term work after a student writes the Final Examination.

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Document created July 20th 2010 / Revised October 18th 2011