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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Sep 20, 2017
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ENGL 091 - Literary History I
Love, Death, and Everything After: 
From Beowulf to “The Death of Dr Swift”

English 091 is an introductory survey course of Anglophone literary and cultural history covering the medieval period to the eighteenth century. It explores what literature is, how it develops, and why an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts surrounding literature—what we call “literary history”—matters. Since ideas about love and death animate the literature treated in English 091, they form the backbone of this particular survey course. To read the poets, dramatists, and writers in this class is to encounter different kinds of love as well as the aftershocks that love (or the loss of love) subsequently generate—not only in the literary characters we will study but also in our own readerly experiences. Entering into dialogue with some of the greatest writers and thinkers, we will explore what experiences of love are--and are not--capable of achieving: for instance, Can love overcome death? If so, how? Reading texts that ask us to imagine love and, by extension, death in very different ways, this course asks us to reflect on what it means to die as well as what it means to die well. As we move from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the Long Eighteenth Century, the responses to love and death evolve in fascinating and not wholly unrelated ways; the “everything after” in the course title thus refers to questions that literature raises not only in relation to what happens after physical or spiritual deaths, but also psychological ones—such as after we fall out of love or find our love unrequited. Ideas about the afterlife--such as heaven and hell—will therefore be examined alongside descriptions of various psychological states. More broadly, this class is an invitation to explore how an appreciation of literary history can deepen our understanding of how certain questions (pertaining to love, death, immortality, etc) develop over time, and how poets are themselves concerned as much with their own poetic legacies as they are with their poetic precursors. One of the main aims of this course is to make you better and more confident “close readers” of texts: an understanding of what is being said will therefore be integrated with an exploration of how it is being said. As such, the course is structured in such a way so as to make us all better readers of imaginative literature, literary history, and culture as well as better writers!

NB: This is a reading intensive course. We will have short writing assignments throughout the term that are meant to hone your close-reading skills, and which will require you to come up with a thesis point and develop it (in tightly-written one- to two-page reading responses).

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture

English Department

Course Attributes:
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