The Kankedort Page
Daniel T. Kline, Dept. of English, U of Alaska Anchorage
Chaucer Pedagogy | Electronic Canterbury Tales | Kankedort Page
But now to yow, ye loveres that ben here, / Was Troilus nought in a kankedort, . . . ? / Troilus and Criseyde 2: 1751-52
English 203: Survey of British Literature I
1. Description 5. Texts
2. Process 6. Requirements and Policies
3. Key Questions 7. Grades
4. Goals and Objectives 8. Reading Schedule: Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

According to the UAA Catalog, Eng. 203 is a survey of English literature from the Anglo-Saxons to the Romantics. The emphasis is upon the more widely recognized writers, with attention to their cultural backgrounds. The course is a chronological--and necessarily highly selective--survey of English literature and highlights writers and texts from five general periods in English literary history:

  1. The Old English Period (c. 800-1100), weeks 1-2;
  2. The Middle English Period (c. 1100-1485), weeks 3-6;
  3. The Sixteenth Century (c. 1485-1603), weeks 7-10;
  4. The Early Seventeenth Century (1603-1660), weeks 11-12;
  5. The Eighteenth Century (1660-1789), weeks 13-15.



The process of the course is straightforward: We will read significant texts from each period, analyze their content, and discuss their potential meanings, both in the context of their historical culture and our own period. We will also identify and interpret significant thematic emphases of individual works and authors, distinguish the characteristics of each period and writer, and look for both significant continuities and crucial innovations within and between writers and periods. As a way of examining the complicated relationship between literature and culture, I will frame each period according to its historical context and anchor each literary unit in a specific set of social practices--a "social code"--characteristic of that period. For the Old English period, we will examine the Heroic code; for the Middle English period, the Chivalric code; for the Renaissance, the Courtly aesthetic; for the Seventeenth century, the rise of Christian humanism; and for the Eighteenth century, Neoclassicism.


Key Questions

We will also find ourselves returning to several key questions of literary interpretation, including:

  1. Why do we read? What happens when we read? What do we attend to or ignore as we read? How and why do our readings change?
  2. How is meaning made? What is the nature of the interaction between reader and text? What personal and social variables constrain or enable our readings?
  3. How does an author perceive the artistic process and justify his/her work; that is, what are the various "authorizing strategies" used in these texts? To what in the reader does the author appeal to gain a hearing for the work?
  4. What is the place of art in culture? How does it function? Does art shape culture? Does culture reflect art? What is the relationship of art and society, and how does art shape our view of nature, culture, and humanity (and vice versa)?
  5. How does the writer see the art in context of h/h culture? What in the culture is the author, criticizing, justifying, exploring, analyzing, satirizing, and/or subverting?
  6. Other related topics will include the place and role of women in society; the construction and conventions of love, both spiritual and physical; the nature and exercise of power; the relationship of the individual to society; gender; and other such topics.

Any student requiring individualized accommodation due to a documented ADA disability should see me during the first week of class. UAA is an equal opportunity institution.



Our overall (and modest) goal for the course will be to achieve both an understanding and appreciation of approximately 1100 years worth of English literature. The general goal of the course will enable you, by the end of the semester, to be:

  1. Well-versed in the major authors and genres, important texts, and main themes of the literature of England from Beowulf to the Romantics.
  2. Familiar with the cultural and historical contexts of this literature.
  3. Proficient in the basic vocabulary of literary formalism.
  4. Able to explore and articulate the connections between this literature and our present historical, cultural, and personal situation(s).
  5. Able to develop and write brief, well-developed, and tightly focused literary analyses.



Abrams, M.H., gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1. 6th ed. New York:
Norton, 1993.


Requirements and Policies

Thorough reading, class participation, 2 tests (a midterm and a final), 5 brief response papers (1-1/2 pages to 2 pages), and one literary analysis paper are required in Eng. 203. In addition, I expect you to come to class faithfully and to keep up with the reading assignments.

  1. Reading: The careful and thorough reading of all assignments is essential to your successful completion of the course. We will also devote some class time to reading aloud in Middle English and other older dialects. In addition, for each assignment, you should also read the editor's notes to each text, author, or historical period.
  2. Tests: You will have a midterm emphasizing the Old and Middle English periods and a cumulative final emphasizing the Renaissance through the Eighteenth Century. The tests, which may be either in-class or take home, may combine both objective questions over content (names, dates, identifying texts and key ideas) and essay responses over literary interpretation (meanings of particular texts, connections between authors, themes, symbols, etc.). We will decide the format together as a class. Make-ups are not given without prior approval. Quizzes over readings, discussions, or lectures are also a possibility.
  3. Response Papers: You will write a brief critical response (1-1/2 typed pages; no more than 2 pages) to a central question of each literary period (4 papers total). These are to be very precise, focused, and clearly argued papers. I will present you with a question, issue, or problem (or a choice of several) to respond to in your paper; these in turn may reappear in some form on your midterm or final. See the unit schedule for due dates; late papers begin with a "C."
  4. Analysis Paper: Your analysis paper is essentially an extended personal response paper (3-5 pages), showing your ability to apply to specific text(s) the interpretive and literary critical skills we have developed in class and to think coherently across the entire semester. In essence, this paper will encapsulate your intellectual growth--its insights as well as its stops and starts--throughout the course as you focus in on a single, essential theme. I am less interested in a research paper and more interested in your own critical thinking. I will circulate more specific instructions later in the term.
  5. Format: All papers (response and analysis) are to be typed on standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch typing paper according to the MLA format (title block in upper left-hand corner, no title page).
  6. Attendance: I expect your regular attendance and participation in all aspects of the course. This includes being the "discussion starter" for at least one class during the term and fully participating in group work. If you miss class, you are still responsible for the work due and should check with classmates for notes and assignments before the next class meeting. A roll sheet will be circulated at the beginning of each class to record attendance.
  7. Plagiarism: Using other people's ideas, phrases, or writing without proper documentation, including having others write your assignments or using undocumented library research, will not be tolerated. Disciplinary action can range from failure of the assignment in question to failure in the course. See the Student Code of Conduct for details.



The course is strictly graded from A to F (A = 93-100, B = 85-92, C = 77-84, D = 70-76, E = 69 or below) according to UAA descriptions: (A = "comprehensive mastery," B = "high level of performance," C = "satisfactory level of performance," D = "lowest passing grade," and F = "failure"). The grading emphasis in the course balances analysis and synthesis with objective testing, and I have weighted the grades accordingly:

Midterm 25%
Final Exam 25%
Response Papers (4 papers @ 5% each) 20%
Analysis Paper 20%
Class Participation/Discussion Starters 10%

Other grading concerns: I will grant a "W" only in cases of grave personal emergency, and I generally do not give Incompletes ("I"). One final word: If your have a question at any point in the term, ask me or set up an appointment. If you have a problem that prevents your progress in the course, don't suffer in silence. Let me know before it gets unmanageable and we'll work something out.


Eng. 203/Kline, Unit 1:
Reading The Old English Period

T 8/26 Syllabus and Introduction to the Course;
Bede and "Caedmon's Hymn" (Norton Anthology, pp. 16-19)
R 8/28 Intro: "The Old English Period" (pp. 2-5), "OE and ME English Prosody" (14-15). Poems: "The Wanderer" (pp. 68-70); "The Seafarer," "The Ruin," "The Wife's Lament," "The Husband's Message" (handouts)
T 9/2 Labor Day Holiday—No Class
R 9/4 "The Dream of the Rood" (pp. 19-21) and "The Battle of Maldon" (pp. 71-75)
T 9/9 Beowulf, pp. 21-40
R 9/11 Beowulf, pp. 40-68
T 9/16 Begin the Middle English Period
*Response Paper #1 Due in Class

Response Paper Number 1: Old English Literature

Identify a key theme in one of the shorter Old English texts we have read and trace its appearance in a specific passage(s) in Beowulf. Possibilities include:

  1. The relationship of the human and divine in "Caedmon's Hymn."
  2. Heroic spirituality and "Christus Victor" in "The Dream of the Rood."
  3. Elegy and elegiac mood in "The Wanderer" and "The Ruin."
  4. Importance of (and/or displacement and loss of) hall, hearth, and comrades in "The Seafarer."
  5. Family and marriage relationships in "The Wife's Lament" and "The Husband's Message."
  6. The heroic code in "The Battle of Maldon."
  7. The use of "kennings" and their significance in any of the works.
  8. The figure of the "scop" and the nature of oral formulaic poetry in any of the selections.
  9. Creative Option: Write a brief lament/elegy (serious or parodic) on a contemporary event after an OE model.

If something else has caught your attention in our reading and in our discussions, you may also define your own topic--in any response paper--after consultation with me.

The better papers will:

  1. Be organized around a specific thesis and clearly and logically structured.
  2. Address very specific passages and prove their point be citing specific texts (by page and/or line number) from both the shorter work and from Beowulf.
  3. Refer to key points of class discussion.
  4. Be 1-1/2 to 2 typed double-spaced pages in the MLA format.

Due in class, Tuesday 9/16


Eng. 203/Kline, Unit 2
Reading The Middle English Period

T 9/16 Introduction: "The Middle English Period" (pp. 5-10)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Parts 1 and 2, pp. 200-225)
*Response Paper #1 Due in Class
R 9/18 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Parts 3 and 4, pp. 225-54)
Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales
T 9/23 The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (pp. 81-100)
Prologue of Langland's Piers Plowman (pp. 254-59)
From The Parson's Tale: The Prologue and Chaucer's Retraction (pp. 193-96)
Mini-Unit on Women in Medieval Literature
R 9/25 The Miller's Tale (pp. 101-17)
T 9/30 The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale (pp. 117-44)
Margery Kempe, from The Book of Margery Kempe (pp. 298-308)
Julian of Norwich, from A Book of Showings (pp. 292-98)
Medieval Drama
R 10/2 Mystery Plays or "Cycle" Drama: The Second Shepherd's Play (pp. 318-44)
The Chester Play of Noah's Flood (pp. 308-18)
*Response Paper #2 Due: Middle English Literature
T 10/7 Morality Plays: Everyman (pp. 363-84)
R 10/9 *Midterm Exam: Old and Middle English Literature

Response Paper Number 2: Middle English Literature

Trace one of the following themes in at least two works, one of which must be Chaucerian:

  1. The pilgrimage or journey motif in the General Prologue, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, The Parson's Prologue and Chaucer's Retraction, The Book of Margery Kempe, and the Prologue to Piers.
  2. The relationship of the sexes and/or the place of women in Gawain, The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, The Book of Margery Kempe, The Miller's Tale, and Julian’s Showings.
  3. The status of language and textuality, art and the artist in Gawain, The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, The General Prologue, The Parson's Prologue and Chaucer's Retraction, and Margery and Julian.
  4. The relationship of the human and the divine in Gawain, Margery, Julian, The General Prologue and Retraction, The Wife of Bath, The Miller's Tale, and the Prologue to Piers.
  5. The relation of the individual to society in Gawain, The General Prologue, The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, The Book of Margery Kempe, and Julian's Showings.
  6. Creative Option: Write the opening stanzas to a medieval romance based on figures from current pop culture. Follow the style and sensibility of SGGK and/or Chaucer.

The better papers will: (1) Be organized around a specific thesis and clearly and logically structured; (2) Address very specific passages and develop key points by citing specific texts (by page and/or line number) from Chaucer and the other ME texts; (3) Refer to key points of class discussion; (4) Be 1-1/2 to 2 typed ds pgs in the MLA format; and (5) Be turned in during class on Thursday, 10/2


Eng. 203/Kline, Unit 3
Reading The Sixteenth Century

Sixteenth Century Poetics and Manners
R 10/16 The Transition from the Late Medieval to the Early Modern Period
Poetics: Sidney, The Defense of Poesy (pp. 479-500);
Manners: Hoby, Castiglione's The Courtier (pp. 973-88);
Lanyer, "Eve's Apology in Defense of Women" (pp. 1059-62)
The Elizabethan Stage and the Nature of Tragedy
T 10/21 Shakespeare (pp. 888-967), King Lear , Act 1
R 10/23 King Lear, Acts 2 and 3
T 10/28 King Lear, Acts 4 and 5
The Renaissance Sonnet
R 10/30 Wyatt: "The Long Love," "Farewell, Love," "My Galley," "Whoso Listeth to Hunt," "Divers Doth Use" (pp. 438-50).
Surrey: "Love, That Doth Reign," "The Soote Season," "Alas! So All Things," "Th'Assyrian King" (pp. 450-57).
Spenser, Amoretti: all selections (pp. 734-38)
Sidney, From Astrophil and Stella (all selections, pp. 458-73)
T 11/4 Shakespeare, Sonnets (all selections, pp. 808-822)
*Response Paper #3 Due in Class

Response Paper Number 3: Sixteenth Century Literature

Using drama as a window into culture, compare and contrast King Lear with ME drama--the biblical drama (the Chester Noah play and the Towneley Second Shepherd's Play) and/or the morality play Everyman. Focus your analysis on one (or two) of the following:

  1. Composition: How (and by whom) were the plays written and what sources were used?
  2. Staging: How were the plays produced and presented? How does the actual theatre space reflect the historical situation of the drama itself?
  3. Subject Matter and Content: What do the plays depict and what stories do they tell? What do these dramas reflect about their culture?
  4. Characters: What kind of characters are represented? How do they relate to one another?
  5. Plot and Setting: How are the stories structured? Where are they set? How do the plots reflect their historical circumstance?
  6. Action--how are the individual moments of action or scenes structured? How do the scenes figure in the larger plot of the play?
  7. Creative Option: Rewrite King Lear as a popular sit-com or "dramedy." Cast the characters, describe the setting, and 2-3 successive scenes from Lear in this vein.

The better papers will: (1) Be organized around a specific thesis and clearly and logically structured; (2) Address very specific passages and prove their point be citing specific texts (by page and/or line number) from King Lear and the ME dramatic texts; (3) Refer to key points of class discussion; (4) Be 1-1/2 to 2 typed double-spaced pages in the MLA format; and (5) Be submitted during class on Tuesday, 11/4.


Eng. 203/Kline, Unit 4
Reading Seventeenth Century

Bridge Unit: Further Experimentation in the Sonnet
T 11/4 Donne, The Holy Sonnets, (all selections, 1114-18);

Milton, Sonnets (all selections, pp. 1471-74): "How Soon Hath Time," "On the New Forcers," "To the Lord General Cromwell," "When I Consider How My Light is Spent," "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont," "Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint;" poems, "On Shakespeare" (p. 1442), "Lycidas" (1451);

Jonson, Sonnets: "To My Book" (p. 1217), "To William Camden" (1218); Poems, "To John Donne" (1219), "On My First Son" (1220), "To Penshurst" (1223), "To the Memory of My Beloved" (1241), "Ode to Himself" (1243).

Lady Mary Wroth, "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus" (pp. 1686-92)

The Transition to the Later Seventeenth Century
R 11/6 Donne: "The Canonization" (p. 1086), "The Flea" (1090)

Herbert: "The Altar" & "Redemption" (p. 1370), "Easter Wings" & Affliction (1)" (1372); "Prayer (1)" and "Jordan" (1) (1374); "Church Monuments" (1375); "The Windows" and "Denial" (1376); "Man" (1378); "Jordan (2)" (1379); "The Pilgrimage" (1381); "The Pulley" (1383); "The Flower" (1384).

T 11/11 Marvel: "To His Coy Mistress" (1420), "The Mower Against the Gardens" (1423), "Damon the Mower" (1424), "The Mower to the Glow Worms" (1427), "The Mower's Song" (1427), "The Garden" (1429)
R 11/13 Milton: Paradise Lost, Bk 1, ll. 1-155; Bk 4, ll. 1-408; Bk 5, ll. 1-135.
*Response Paper #4 Due in Class
T 11/18 Milton: Paradise Lost, Bk 9 (all); Bk 12, ll. 466-649.

Response Paper Number 4: Early Seventeenth Century Literature

Analyze a sonnet: Compare and contrast a Renaissance sonnet of your choice with a sonnet from Donne, Milton, Jonson, or Lady Mary Wroth. Pay attention to:

  1. Rhyme scheme: Do the rhymes lend insight to the sonnet's interpretation?
  2. Structure: How is the poem structured? Shakespearean, Petrarchan, Spenserian, or some significant variation? Does the structure help communicate key ideas about the theme?
  3. Language: What is the dominant metaphor, simile, or trope of the poem?
  4. Central theme: What is the poem about and how does it communicate that central thought?
  5. Account for any turns in phrase, thought, or emphasis. Such changes are usually deliberate and significant.
  6. Creative Option: Try your hand at a sonnet, in any form or variety, keeping in mind the characteristics of good sonneteering.

The better papers will: (1) Be organized around a specific thesis concerning 1 or 2 sonnets and be clearly and logically structured; (2) Address very specific passages and develop key ideas by citing specific texts (by page and/or line number) from the sonnet(s) themselves; (3) Refer to key points of class discussion; (4) Be 1-1/2 to 2 typed double-spaced pages in the MLA format; (5) Be turned in on time in class on Thursday, 11/13.


English 203/Kline, Unit 5
Reading the Restoration and the Eighteenth Century

Upheaval and Transition: From 17th to 18th Century in Philosophy, Politics, and Poetics
T 11/18 Philosophy: Bacon, Essays (all selections, pp. 1258-68), "The Advancement of Learning" (pp. 1269-70), "Novum Oranum" (pp. 1271-76); Hobbes, "Leviathan" (all selections, pp. 1658-1666); Locke, "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (pp. 1755-60).
Politics: Halkett (pp. 1732-34), Lilburne (1735-39), Winstanley (1740-43), Coppe (1745-47), Hyde (1752-54).
Poetics: Dryden (all selections, pp. 1837-46); Cowley, "On Wit" (pp. 1715-17); Pope, "An Essay on Criticism" (pp. 2216-32).
Variety and Innovation in 18th Century Writing
R 11/20 Mock-Heroic Verse: Dryden, "Mac Flecknoe" (pp. 1815-20); Pope, "Rape of the Lock" (pp. 2233-51).
T 11/25 Swift, "A Modest Proposal" (2181-86); Pope, "An Essay on Man" (pp. 2263-70)
R 11/27 Thanksgiving Holiday—No Class
T 12/2 Addison, Steele, and Johnson: Periodical Literature and the Literary Profession
Addison and Steele (all selections, pp. 2187-2211); Johnson and the Periodical: Rambler No. 5 (pp. 2310), Idler No. 31 (2313), Rambler No. 4 (2380), Rambler No. 60 (2382).
Johnson the Litterateur: "Dictionary" (pp. 2386-91); "Preface to Shakespeare" (pp. 2392-93 [General Nature] and 2402-03 [King Lear]); "Lives of the Poets" (On Paradise Lost, pp. 2408-12; On Pope and Dryden, pp. 2413-15).
R 12/4 Poetry of Sensibility: Gray (all selections, pp. 2454-61); Collins (all selections, pp. 2462-66); Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village" (pp. 2484-92); Crabbe, "The Village" (pp. 2493-2500).
Final Exams, December 8-13


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