Survey of British Literature, Romanticism to Present

English 3210
Section 1
Nancy West

This course will provide a survey of British literature, dating roughly from the French Revolution to the end of World War II. As a survey course, you might be inclined to think, English 3210 will study authors and their works in very general terms, moving so quickly that you will only be able to glean the most basic facts about the subjects under study.  “Survey,” however, implies much more than a broad perspective; it also means to “explore the unknown” (as in geologic surveys, for example) and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, its primary definition refers to “the act of viewing, examining, or inspecting in detail. English 3210 will therefore aim at teaching you to look closely at these works, even as we move quickly.  It will also encourage you to approach those poems, fictional pieces, or works you may know as if you are, in fact, on a geologic survey, searching for the unknown.  This is not to suggest that I wish you to somehow leave aside your own interests, background, and knowledge; what I hope instead is that you leave your presuppositions behind, or better still, that you reflect on how and why you arrived at those presuppositions in the first place. John Keats may have lived a reclusive life during his long illness, but he wrote his fair share of erotic poetry, too. The only definition of survey that will NOT inform this course is “commanding position,” which suggests authority and thus implies that by semester’s end, you will have commanded a mastery over these authors and works.  Instead, I hope that English 3210 will leave you with the sense that you have been carefully introduced to this material, and hopefully, appreciate much of it.

Course Goals

1. To introduce you to works from the Romantic era, Victorian age, and the Twentieth Century in their historical, literary, and national contexts

2. To establish aesthetic, thematic, and social similarities and differences among these works

3. To train you to read closely and analytically

4. To have you become familiar with some of the most current academic approaches to literature

5. To investigate six subjects, and their literary representations, particularly closely: 1) war and imperialism 2) art and imagination 3) masculinity and femininity 4) poverty, work, crime 5) love 6) country vs. city


Attendance & Participation: I expect you to come to all classes and to be on time for class. I also expect you to come to class having done the reading, having thought about it, and having generated some questions for discussion.

Reading Quizzes: I will regularly give short quizzes about the readings and previous day’s lectures right at the beginning of class.

Group Projects, Presentations, In-Class Work, and Participation: You will regularly work individually, in pairs, and in larger groups, sometimes presenting your thoughts to the class. Sometimes this work will be evaluated by me, and other times through peer-grading and self-grading methods.

At-Home Writing Assignments: There will be three at-home writing assignments (3-4pp in length). These are meant to provide you with interesting ways to dig deeper into the texts we are studying in class.

Final Project. This can be a project of your own choosing and design, and it can take multiple forms—from videos to podcasts to blogs to board games. Projects must be approved by me.

Final Exam. An in-class, cumulative exam that students will design themseles.