British Literature

Course by Dr. Elizabeth Hedrick

This course is intended to provide an overview of British literature from the Middle Ages to the present, surveying a wide range of genres and literary forms.  The readings will have a thematic focus on ideas of virtue and heroism.  Specifically, we’ll study the ways in which notions of virtue and heroism have taken shape over the course of English history; the ways in which these notions are depicted differently in different literary forms; and the ways in which the literary forms themselves change through time, along with the ideals of virtue or heroism they convey.  In the first half of the course, we’ll consider the ways in which these notions are or are not distinguishable from one another, separating out after a long period of being substantially identical.  In the second half of the course we’ll examine the ways in which the creative writer becomes a particular kind of hero, one that resembles heroes from earlier eras in some ways and differs from them in others.  Throughout the course, we’ll consider how men and women (and male and female characters in literature) are or are not able to be virtuous or heroic in certain contexts.  The approach to the materials will be basically historical, and the lectures will provide historical, intellectual and other kinds of information as a way to illuminate the readings on the syllabus.