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ENGL 3300 Readings in Ancient World and Medieval British Literatures

drawing of men pushing large boulders

Catalog Description

Pre- or co-requisite: ENGL 2900. Introduction to the literary and cultural historical foundations of western literature as well as the origins of the English language and literature through a reading of selected texts.

Course Description

ENGL 3300 Readings in Ancient World and Medieval British Literatures is one of the core courses in the English undergraduate degree program. The core Readings courses provide majors with awareness of the concepts, histories, and theories central to the study of literature and language, and thus serve as “gateway” courses to 4000-level electives. ENGL 3300 lays the classical and European medieval foundations of English and World Literature. The class promotes literacy in the western classical and medieval tradition.  Progress is measured, variously, in written work, exams and other projects.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • read and understand the poems, myths, and foundational texts in a variety of ancient and medieval world cultures (literary coverage) and make effective comparisons and connections between relevant aspects of different texts
  • demonstrate the ability to discuss the various literary, cultural, historical and religious bases for literary in the ancient and medieval worlds (literary analysis)
  • demonstrate understanding of the origins of the English language and its earliest cultural productions. Students will know the genres, historical and cultural contexts of Old and Middle English literature and be able to read aloud from texts in Old and Middle English with awareness of the linguistic changes affecting the languages (linguistics)
  • demonstrate understanding of the mutual relationship between historical and cultural context and literary form and production, specifically the effect of war, migration, and other historical changes, such as plague, religious reform, and revolution on literary history

Course Outline

For weeks 1 to 10: Students will read major works from the western literary cannon from the classical and medieval periods.  We will focus on a series of classical texts from India, Greece, and Rome, as well as from Medieval Europe that have become the foundation for much of western literary history.  Through a reading of selected texts and mythologies from a variety of cultures, students will learn the key genres and artistic conventions that inform the various traditions represented and the roles these texts have played in cultural and aesthetic history. Authors and texts may include: Homer, Virgil, Sappho, Ovid, The Bhagavad Gita, The Ramayana, the Bible, Augustine, Boethius, Dante, Petrarch.

Weeks 11-15: Students will read selected literary works in English from its origins to the medieval period. We will emphasize close reading of the texts, and we will also address historical and cultural issues as contexts for studying the literature.  Authors and texts may include: Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon prose and poetry, Marie de France, Chaucer, Mallory, medieval drama, the Gawain poet, Piers Plowman.

About the Banner: Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno, Plate XXII, Canto VII, "The hoarders and wasters" (image from