1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement

English Literature I

EN 205-010Fall 2019 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Nicholas Helms

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

EN 101 and EN 102; or EN 103; or EN 104; or EN 120 and EN 121

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

Survey of English literature from the seventh through the eighteenth century, including works from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Restoration, and Enlightenment.

EN 205 is designed to provide a semester-length survey of the major English writers from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.  The various works discussed during this course will lay a solid foundation for mastering the conventional modes of scholarly interpretation that prove essential to the undergraduate experience.  Paradigmatic genres and forms, such as medieval allegories, Petrarchan sonnets, verse dramas, satiric poems, etc., will be analyzed in detail through close reading techniques, all with an eye toward developing keen textual sensibilities.  In addition, period essays regarding literary criticism will complement our assessment of an era’s aesthetic and cultural concerns.  With the successful completion of this course, students will gain an extensive awareness of the important literary qualities that characterize the canonical authors from Geoffrey Chaucer to Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:

Course Objectives

This course addresses the ability to deal with questions of values, ethics, or aesthetics as they are represented in humanistic fields of learning, including but not limited to literature, philosophy, religious studies, speech, foreign languages, art, music, and dance. The course is broad in scope and content, rather than specific, and takes a global perspective of the subject matter and the relationship between all points of view suggested by it (i.e., an analytical, not geographical approach). The course emphasizes history and appreciation, rather than performance, of the humanities.

This course is broad in scope and content rather than specific, and will emphasize a global perspective. The course presents major intellectual and aesthetic ideas, covers multiple genres over a broad historical/literary period, and includes substantial writing assignments encouraging the development of critical thinking skills. The course requires students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate knowledge, and considers the subject in relation to other disciplines and its application to human concerns.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students can produce literary close readings that address both the form and the content of one or more text(s) in the construction of an argument about the text’s meaning.
  • Students attain a broad knowledge of English literary history of the Medieval period and the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
  • Students gain the confidence and ability to speak in a sophisticated and critical fashion about early British literature.
  • Students will develop effective written communication skills.
  • Students will recognize and identify key concepts in the arts, sciences, and humanities to provide a broad perspective on the human condition.

Other Course Materials


Outline of Topics

We will read a lot and move swiftly from one author to the next. This is the great and horrible truth about survey classes: we have much to cover and little time to cover it. Therefore, we will have lengthy reading assignments for each class period, and you will be responsible for the material the week it is assigned.

Readings are provided for each week rather than each day. Please have all reading done before class on Tuesday. That way we can be more flexible as a class with which material we discuss each day.

If you're interested in audio books of much of the public domain material on the syllabus, check out Librivox at https://librivox.org/.

Week 1, 8/22 (The Middle Ages, Volume A)

Hand out Syllabus; Class Introductions; Early Irish Lyrics, 134-5

Week 2, 8/27 and 8/29

(M 8/26 Film screening of a Strange Brews (Moranis, 1983), 301 Morgan Hall, 7:30 pm. Extra Credit)

"The Middle Ages to ca. 1485," 1-29; “Cædmon’s Hymn” and “The Dream of the Rood,” 30-7; “Judith,” “The Wanderer,” "Wulf and Eadwacer," “The Wife’s Lament,” and "The Ruin," 110-26. [Content Warning (hereafter CW): graphic violence]

Week 3, 9/3 and 9/5

Marie de France's "Milun," "Lanval," and "Chevrefoil," 158-88; Geoffrey Chaucer's The Cantebury Tales "General Prologue," 256-82. [CW: homophobia]

Week 4, 9/10 and 9/12                     

Week 4: "Ancrene Wisse," 154-7; Thomas Hoccleve's "My Complaint," 377-87; Julian of Norwich's A Book of Showings, 430-442, Margery Kempe's The Book of Margery Kempe, 442-56. [CW: mental illness, suicide]

Week 5, 9/17 and 9/19

No class on 9/17 or 9/19. Instead, you'll each be required to sign up for and attend a ten minute conference this week via Blackboard Collaborate. Attendance at this conference counts as class attendance. Be prepared to digitally share a current draft of your first essay during the conference. Essays for Volume A due to Blackboard by Sunday, September 22, 11:59 pm.

Week 6, 9/24 and 9/26 (The Sixteenth Century / The Early Seventeenth Century, Volume B)

(M 9/23 Film screening of The Forbidden Planet (Wilcox, 1956), the Bama Theatre at 600 Greensboro Ave., 7:30 pm. Extra Credit)

"The Sixteenth Century 1485-1603," 3-35, Elizabeth I, 221-237, "The Wider World," 609-657

Week 7, 10/1 and 10/3

Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, 539-41, 586-603, and Mary (Sidney) Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, 604-8; William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, 718-22, 739-802 (pdf on Blackboard)

W 10/2 Improbable Fictions presents a staged reading of Twelfth Night at 30 ten Hoor Hall, 7:30 pm. Attendance required. Alternative: rent and watch Trevor Nunn's 1996 Twelfth Night.

Week 8, 10/8 and 10/10

"The Early Seventeenth Century 1603-1660," 891-919, Mary Wroth, 1110-1120; John Donne's Holy Sonnets, 920-2, 960-5

Week 9, 10/15 and 10/17

Margaret Cavendish, 1434-46; "Manessah ben Isreal Petition" & "Persecution of Jews" (pdfs on Blackboard); and John Milton's Paradise Regained, 1447-50 (pdf on Blackboard)

W 10/16 Improbable Fictions presents a staged reading of Paradise Regained at 30 ten Hoor Hall, 7:30 pm. Attendance required.

Week 10, 10/22 and 10/24        (The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, Volume C)

"The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century 1660-1785," 3-33; "Travel, Trade, and the Expansion of Empire" (pdf on Blackboard); John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, 95-104

Week 11, 10/29 and 10/31

(M 10/28 Film screening of Romeo + Juliet (Luhrman, 1996), the Bama Theatre at 600 Greensboro Ave., 7:30 pm. Extra Credit)

No class on 10/29 or 10/31 (Fall Break!). Instead, you'll each be required to sign up for and attend a ten minute conference this week via Blackboard Collaborate. Attendance at this conference counts as class attendance. Be prepared to digitally share a current draft of your second paper during the conference. Essays for Volume B due to Blackboard by Sunday, November 3, 11:59 pm.

Week 12, 11/5 and 11/7       

Aphra Behn's "The Disappointment" and Oroonoko, 133-186 [CW: human trafficking, torture]

Week 13, 11/12 and 11/14

"Debating Women: Arguments in Verse," 636-57; "Slavery and the Slave Trade in Britain" (pdf on Blackboard) [CW: human trafficking]

Week 14, 11/19 and 11/21

(M 11/18 Film screening of Cleopatra, 301 Morgan Hall, 7:30 pm. Extra Credit)

"Liberty," 959-79, Olaudah Equiano, 980-90, plus handout (pdf on Blackboard); full audio at https://librivox.org/the-interesting-narrative-of-the-life-of-olaudah-equiano-by-olaudah-equiano/. [CW: human trafficking]

Week 15, 11/26 and 11/28

No class on 11/26 or 11/28 (Thanksgiving!). Instead, you'll each be required to sign up for and attend a ten minute conference this week via Blackboard Collaborate. Attendance at this conference counts as class attendance. Be prepared to digitally share a current draft of your third essay during the conference. Essays for Volume C due to Blackboard by Sunday, December 1, 11:59 pm.

Week 15, 12/3 and 12/5       

No reading. Class time devoted to Creative Projects. We'll meet in the computer lab in 307 Manly Hall on Tuesday.

There will be no in-class Final Exam. Instead, Creative Projects are due on Blackboard by December 10, 11:59 PM.

Exams and Assignments

Weekly Questions

Each week of class (before class begins on Tuesday), you are responsible for posting two (2) questions to the Daily Questions class blog on Blackboard. These should be questions about the readings for the week, and should address thematic or stylistic issues.  Think of the questions as guides for class discussion.  For example: Why did the author choose to end the story this way?  Why does the poem use a specific metaphor?  How does history change our reading of the work? Each question should specifically cite and quote one of the texts we are discussing that week. For each quotation, try to answer that question yourself. Answers may be speculative rather than definitive. Each question and its answer should be 150 words minimum, not counting the quotations.

Volume Essays

You will write an essay for each of the three volumes of the Norton Anthology we're covering in close. These essays will be 1000-word minimum essays connecting a single theme across multiple texts/authors from that particular volume. The writing will take place outside of class and should emphasize coverage as well as argument and analysis. You will be expected to cite the historical introductions and footnotes from the Norton Anthology at least twice in each paper (one citation from an introduction, one from a footnote).

Creative Project

The last week of class will be reserved for a creative project. You will be expected to produce a Wordpress site for your three essays in this class. You will post each essay on a separate page on your site, and you will also develop your own creative responses to the literature you discuss in your essay. These responses can be in any form, but here are some types of response you might consider: an audio recording of a reading of the literature; a piece of visual art responding to the literature; fan-fiction based upon the literature; an original poem or short story responding to the literature; an adapted script ready intended for performance; and so on. We'll look at sample creative responses as the semester goes along.

Grading Policy

Your assignments throughout the semester will make up these percentages of your overall grade:

  • Weekly Questions: 20%

  • The Middle Ages essay: 20%

  • The Sixteenth and Seventeeth Centuries essay: 20%

  • The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century essay: 20%

  • Creative Project: 20%














Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

  • Successful students attend class regularly and on time.
  • Major graded work (such as papers) missed due to legitimate circumstances beyond the student’s control may be made up if arrangements are made with the instructor in advance, or in timely fashion upon the student's return to class. 
  • Please inform me in advance of the due date before attempting to submit a late essay.  Make sure you have “legitimate circumstances” or your grade will suffer a ten-point reduction for each day after the due date.  Social or community organization events are not legitimate circumstances.
  • You are strongly urged to attend ALL classes. You are responsible for the material covered during your absence, and your work is still due on the assigned date whether you are absent or not. You are also responsible for having the next class assignment done when you return.

Attendance Policy

As this is a T/R course, you are allowed to miss class up to four times. If and when you miss class, you should request the notes for that day from a classmate. If you’re concerned about what you missed, I’ll be more than happy to meet with you during my office hours to get you caught up, but DO NOT send me an email to the tune of “I was absent. What’d I miss?” or “Did I miss anything important today?” I will not respond. I cannot and will not re-teach a 75-minute lesson via email. Again: I’ll be happy to go over what you missed if you come to see me during my office hours.

If you must miss class for a university-sanctioned purpose, let me know ahead of time so that we can make arrangements. If circumstances out of your control require you to miss multiple classes and/or you foresee said circumstances affecting your performance in the class, let me know ASAP. Each absence after your fourth will result in a loss of fifteen (15) points from your weekly questions average.

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.

Mental Health & Wellness Resources Syllabus Statement

Each semester, thousands of UA students and faculty experience unhealthy stress at some point. Some of you experience it more often—and may be affected more severely—than others. Some may experience academic stress, while others may experience hazing or harassment. Still, some of you may struggle with mental illness and may face a number of
emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges as you navigate the semester. If you experience these issues, it’s important that you seek help if you feel you need it.

Every year, suicide is among the leading causes of death among college students, so it’s critical that you know that you are not alone and that confidential help is always available at UA.

If you find yourself stressed, struggling with unhealthy thoughts or behaviors, experiencing hazing/harassment, and/or battling mental illness—or if you just want someone to listen—please know that there are people here to help and who will keep your information private via HIPAA guidelines.

Here are a few resources that may be particularly useful:

  • Counseling Center (at 205-348-3863 or https://counseling.sa.ua.edu

  • Women & Gender Resource Center (https://wgrc.sa.ua.edu)

  • Office of Disability Services [who may be able to help those diagnosed with mental illness] (348-4285 or www.ods.ua.edu)

  • Suicide Prevention—contact Counseling Center, call 911, or seek help in a local Emergency Department.

You can find other resources on the UAct website (https://www.ua.edu/campuslife/uact/).

Please know that I am always willing to make a referral for you if you do not feel comfortable doing so yourself.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.