English 40A
Introduction to British Literature Part I



Professor Julie Yen 
(916)  278-6176

Calaveras 160

The Comic, the Heroic, and the Satiric:
The Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century


The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. I. 7th ed.
Canterbury Tales. Nevill Coghill.
The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. (recommended)

.  Edith Hamilton.  (recommended)

Course Description

In this course, we will be studying some of the most exciting English works written during the middle ages, the Renaissance, and the eighteenth century.  We will read the texts carefully, but we will also consider their religious, political, and cultural contexts.  We will explore the works through some familiar literary themes and motifs in Western literature, many of which you already know well, such as 

  • the idea that life is a journey or a quest

  • the complexities of love and desire

  • the personal struggles inherent in the practice of religious beliefs

  • reflections on essential social institutions, such as marriage and public education, and perennial social problems, such as disparities between the rich and the poor.

In our syllabus, the medieval texts that we will be reading include Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Book of Margery Kempe, and Everyman; our Renaissance authors include Queen Elizabeth I, Wyatt, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Aemilia Lanyer, and Milton; and our eighteenth-century writers include Anne Finch, Mary Wortley Montagu, Swift, Pope, and Johnson.  


English Department
California State University, Sacramento