Department of English

University of Toronto

1000 Series 2010-11


An introduction for reading knowledge to the oldest literary form of English, with discussion of readings drawn from the surviving prose and verse literature.


Lecture, language drill, and discussion.

Bruce Mitchell & Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 7th ed (Blackwell, 2007)

Previous acquaintance with Latin, German, or other highly inflected language is useful but not essential.

Tuesday 9:00 – 11:00 a.m
Room 24, Trinity College


This course is devoted to a reading of Beowulf, within the context of the English heroic age. The heroic concepts and values which inform the poem will be analyzed primarily through the poet’s linguistic choices and rhetorical strategies: the poetic compounds he coins or appropriates, his appositions, variations, and digressions. Language will be used as a tool to explore cultural questions such as the manipulation of kindred and ethnic affinities and the constructions of legitimate and illegitimate violence. In addition, we will be concerned with questions of dating, of meter, of the authority of the manuscript, of the poem in its manuscript context, and, finally, of the evidence of archaeology.


The class will meet once a week for 2 hours each. Class time will be spent in lecture, discussion, and in translation of the poem. Each student will be expected to lead at least one seminar (with a 1-2 page critique handed in on the day of the seminar). There will be a mid-term translation test, and a final paper (15-20 pages). Evaluation: class work 10%; seminar 20%; translation test 30%; essay 40%.

Edition: Klaeber’s “Beowulf”, fourth edition, eds. R.D. Fulk, Robert Bjork, and John Niles (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008); Secondary: Robert Bjork and John Niles, eds., A Beowulf Handbook (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997); Andy Orchard, A Critical Companion to Beowulf (Cambridge: Brewer 2003).

ENG 1001F or its equivalent is essential.

Tuesday 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Room 24, Trinity College


Pre-modern English writers had several models for thinking about the past, ranging from the Virgilian narrative of the rise and fall of great nations to the Orosian pattern of translatio imperii. Whether focused on nation or empire, however, the writing of history has always had as its goal the effort to impose form on the potentially chaotic fragments of the past. Nowhere is this effort more visible than in the great moments of punctuation: not just the succession of one nation by another in the sequence of imperial rule, but in the destabilizing rupture of revolution and apocalypse. This course focuses on the tension between the matter of history and the form of chronicle, and considers the role of poetics in mediating the movement of history into literature. To this end, we will juxtapose histories written and read in medieval England with literature of the Middle Ages, concluding with a glance forward into early modern narratives of the English nation.


Class participation and several short presentations (40%); abstract (10%); final research paper (50%).

Texts will include: Virgil, Aeneid and Chaucer, House of Fame, book I; Statius, Thebaid and Chaucer, Knight’s Tale; Joseph of Exeter, Ylias and Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; Orosius, Seven Books of History against the Pagans and Higden and Trevisa, Polychronicon; Froissart, Chronicle and Gower, Vox clamantis, book I; Foxe, Book of Martyrs and Milton, History of Britain.

Wednesday 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Room F204, University College



This course examines several aspects of Chaucerian poetics (rhetoric, genre, allusion, irony, etc.), and appraises several different critical approaches to Chaucer’s works (historicism, formalism, intertextuality, gender studies, textual criticism, etc.)  We read the Canterbury Tales in their entirety, examining some of the interpretive issues with which recent Chaucer criticism has been most concerned. A focal point for our readings and discussion will be the recent turn in Chaucer criticism to questions about religious, theological, and devotional discourses operating in Chaucer’s poetry; such a focus on the poetics of the sacred and profane will allow students to delve more deeply into the literary, historical, and ethical questions raised by Chaucer’s art.
Course Requirements
Seminar Presentation (15%); Colloquium Presentation (20%); Final Essay (40%); Participation (20%).
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. Jill Mann (Penguin); Helen Cooper, The Canterbury Tales [Oxford Guides] (Oxford). Selected medieval analogues, and selected critical essays, will be made available in a course reader.
Familiarity with Middle English is a pre-requisite for this class.

Tuesday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 006, Emmanuel College, 75 Queen's Park

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