The learning outcomes for upper-division literature courses and English 341 become understood and realized in the context and content of the particular texts surveyed and studied in the course. Some examples of the periods and topics follow, as noted via materials on the anthology's website.

From the Norton Anthology of English Literature website:
The Middle Ages
• The Middle Ages is a vast literary time period. It stretches from the collapse of the Roman Empire in Britain (ca. 450) to the beginning of the Renaissance (ca. 1485).
• The period is subdivided into three parts: Anglo-Saxon literature, Anglo-Norman literature, and Middle English literature.
• There are two trends in scholarship concerning the Middle Ages: some scholars view the Middle Ages as the beginning of ideas that continued developing well into the sixteenth century; others feel the Middle Ages were "created" by sixteenth-century writers who wanted to emphasize the originality of their contributions to literary culture.
• Old English was spoken by the Germanic invaders of Britain; Old French or Anglo-Norman was spoken in Britain after the Norman Conquest of 1066; and Middle English, which appeared in the twelfth century, displaced French as Britain's official language by the end of the fourteenth century.

Anglo-Saxon Literature
• The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes were the three related Germanic tribes who invaded the Roman province Britannia (England) around the year 450, after the Romans withdrew.
• Anglo-Saxons had a tradition of oral poetry, but only circumstantial evidence of this tradition remains in manuscripts―most remaining Old English poetry is contained in just four manuscripts.
• Values of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry include: 1) kinship relations rather than geography form the idea of a nation; 2) generosity is expected on the part of the lord (from Old English words meaning ‘protector' and ‘loaf'), who leads men in war and rewards them with a share of the booty; 3) on the part of the lord's men, what is valued is loyalty until the lord's death, and revenge killing (or eternal shame if vengeance is not pursued) after it.
• Old English poetry is often elegaic. It often combines Christian texts with Germanic heroic values.
• Old English poetry uses a special, formal poetic vocabulary, including devices like synecdoche, metonymy, and kenning (a two-word compound in place of a more straightforward noun; e.g., "life-house" for "body"), and frequently employs irony.

Anglo-Norman Literature
• Anglo-Norman aristocrats loved the old Celtic oral tales sung by Breton storytellers. These tales were called Breton "lays."
• Breton lays were developed by writers like Marie de France and Chrétien de Troyes into the form known as "romance." Romance was the main narrative genre for late medieval readers.
• A chivalric romance (from the word "roman" meaning a work in the French vernacular tongue) focuses on knightly adventures (including ethical and spiritual quests), knightly love for and courtesy toward ladies, and the display of martial prowess against powerful, sometimes supernatural foes.
• Romances, in which a knight must prove his worthiness through bravery and noble deeds, can reflect the social aspirations of members of the lower nobility to rise socially.

Middle English Literature in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
• The fourteenth century saw the expansion of the merchant class and international trade, trends visible in Geoffrey Chaucer's career as a civil servant and in his portrait of the Merchant in The Canterbury Tales.

Medieval English
• Old English, which has an almost entirely Germanic vocabulary, is a heavily inflected language. Its words change form to indicate changes in function, such as person, number, tense, case, mood, and so forth.
• The introduction in our Norton anthology gives detailed rules for pronouncing Middle English: in general, sound aloud all consonants except h; sound aloud the final "e"; sound double vowels as long; and pronounce short vowels as in modern English and long vowels as in modern European languages other than English.

Old and Middle English Prosody
• The verse form of all Old English poetry is the same: the verse unit is the single line. Rhyme is not often used to link lines in Old English.
• Alliteration, or beginning several words with the same sound, is the organizing principle of Old English poetry.
• A consonant alliterates with its match or with another consonant that makes the same sound; a vowel alliterates with any other vowel.
• An Old English alliterative line contains four principal stresses, and is divided by a caesura (a pause) into two half-lines, each containing two stresses. At least one (and sometimes both) of the stressed words in the first half-line begins with the same sound as the first stressed word of the second half-line. The last stressed word often is non-alliterative.
• Middle English verse can be alliterative (as above, though sometimes increasing the number of alliterative or stressed words); or, influenced by Old French, it can be in the form of alternately stressed rhyming verse lines.
• Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are mainly in rhymed couplets, with five-stress lines.

The Sixteenth Century, 1485-1603
• The crowning of King Henry VII in 1485 marks the start of the Tudor dynasty and this literary period.
• During this period, English evolved from a language that did not enjoy international prestige into a language enriched by writers including Shakespeare, Marlowe, and translators of the Bible.

The Court and the City
• The court was a place steeped in intrigue and ambition where elegance, ease, and the ability to decipher words with multiple meanings (in poetry no less than in politics) were prized abilities. Court tastes in music, dance, poetry, theater, and masque shaped the taste of the nation.
• London was Europe's fastest growing city: it grew from 60,000 people in 1520 to 375,000 in 1650.
Renaissance Humanism
• For Renaissance thinkers, “man” was the measure of all things; yet man was also capable of changing and fashioning himself.
The Reformation
• England's official faith underwent rapid, radical shifts during this period: from Roman Catholicism under the pope, to Catholicism under the English king, to Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, and back to Protestantism.

A Female Monarch in a Male World
• Because she was Anne Boleyn's daughter (Boleyn was never recognized as legitimate by Catholics and was beheaded by Henry VIII) Elizabeth's claim to the throne was precarious.
• Queen Elizabeth I's reign was the more remarkable when one considers that contemporary social expectations equated rational thought with masculinity, and irrational passions with femininity.
• Elizabeth, who had received a rigorous humanist education, positioned herself as ruler by appealing to historical precedent (other female rulers, such as the biblical Deborah), to legal theory (dividing her person into a mortal "body natural" and an immortal "body politic"), and to the love of her courtiers and people.
• Opposition to her absolute rule was regarded as treasonous and impious. The queen and her spymaster Walsingham controlled a massive spy network to enforce her authority.
• Poets and painters represented the "Virgin Queen" Elizabeth as comparable to the mythological goddesses Diana, Astraea, and Cynthia, and the biblical heroine Deborah.
• Elizabeth cannily exploited her unmarried state to pit various political factions against one another.

The Kingdom in Danger
• Elizabeth's reign was marked by numerous plots against her life by both Protestant and Catholic extremists.

The English and Otherness
1. The religious and political events of the Tudor era made people newly aware and proud of their national identity and led them to define those who lay outside that identity in new ways.
2. Elizabethan London had a large population of merchants and artisans from France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Germany.
3. The English also perceived the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish as other and distinct from themselves.
4. Religious others in London included Protestant radicals such as the Puritans, and Jews, who had been expelled from England by King Edward I in 1290 and who were not officially permitted to resettle in England until the mid-seventeenth century.
5. Racial discrimination was another kind of otherness; many Elizabethans regarded blackness as a physical defect. There is evidence of black slaves and servants in England at this time, and slavery was generally regarded as a profitable merchant venture—one in which Queen Elizabeth herself invested.

The Elizabethan Theater
• Permanent, free-standing public theaters date only from Shakespeare's lifetime, although there was a theatrical tradition stretching back to the play cycles and mystery plays of medieval times.
• By the late sixteenth century, many church men (especially Puritans) opposed the theater.
• Prominent dramatic modes included the violent revenge tragedy, in which a wronged protagonist plots and executes revenge, usually destroying him- or herself as well; the history play, featuring national stories of rebellion, war, or conspiracy; and comedies based on those by the Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence.
• Christopher Marlowe's adoption of unrhymed iambic pentameter, or blank verse, revolutionized theatrical expression.
• By the 1590s, four major playhouses just outside London's city limits (and beyond the rule of city authorities hostile to drama) competed for business. Competition and the habitual play-going of their audiences created a market for new plays.
• These theatres were oval-shaped, with an unroofed yard where lower-class "groundlings" could watch the play and roofed seating areas for the gentry. The stage thrust forward into the crowd, which surrounded it on three sides.
• Plays were performed in the afternoon and could draw people away from their work. No women appeared on stage; boy actors played the female roles. These conditions gave rise to objections that the theater was morally debased—Puritans, for example, charged that the sight of boys dressed as women would excite illicit sexual desire.

The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, 1660-1785
• The Restoration period begins in 1660, the year in which King Charles II (the exiled Stuart king) was restored to the English throne.
• The period is one of increasing commercial prosperity and global trade for Britain.
• Literacy expanded to include the middle classes and even some of the poor.
• Emerging social ideas included politeness―a behavioral standard to which anyone might aspire―and new rhetoric of liberty and rights, sentiment and sympathy.

Religion and Politics
• The monarchical restoration was accompanied by the re-opening of English theatres (closed during Cromwell's Puritan regime) and the restoration of the Church of England as the national church.
• Church and state continued to be closely intertwined. The Test Act of 1673 required all holders of civil and military offices to take the sacrament in the Anglican Church and deny transubstantiation; those who refused (e.g., Protestant Dissenters and Roman Catholics) were not allowed to attend university or hold public office.
• King Charles II, though he outwardly conformed to Anglicanism, had Catholic sympathies that placed him at odds with his strongly anti-Catholic Parliament.
• Charles had no legitimate heir. His brother James (a Catholic) was next in line to the throne. Parliament tried to force Charles to exclude his brother from the line of succession. Charles ended this "Exclusion Crisis" by dissolving Parliament.
• The Exclusion Crisis in a sense created modern political parties: the Tories, who supported the king, and the Whigs, who opposed him.
• Once crowned, King James II quickly suspended the Test Act. In 1688, the birth of James's son so alarmed the country with the prospect of a new succession of Catholic monarchs that secret negotiations began to bring a new Protestant ruler from Europe to oust James.
• In 1688, William of Orange and his wife Mary (James's daughter from a former marriage) landed in England with a small army and seized power—an event known as the Glorious or Bloodless Revolution.
• James II fled to exile in France. For over 50 years his supporters (called Jacobites, from the Latin Jacobus, for James) mounted unsuccessful attempts to restore the Stuart line of Catholic kings to the British throne.
• Queen Anne, another of James II's daughters, was the next monarch (1702-1714). Anne's reign was a prosperous time for Britain, as the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713) created new trade opportunities.
• England, Scotland, and Wales were united as Great Britain by the 1707 Act of Union.
• As Anne, like Mary, had no heirs, the succession was settled upon the royal house of Hanover. A long line of King Georges (I-IV) ensued, which is why the eighteenth century is also known as the Georgian period.
• We now associate the term "Whig" with liberalism and "Tory" with conservatism, but the principles behind these two parties remained fluid and responsive to political circumstance throughout the period.
• Robert Walpole, a Whig politician who served under both King George I and George II, held a parliamentary seat from 1701 until 1742. Walpole was the first man to be described as a "prime" minister.
• During King George III's long rule (1760-1820) Britain became a major colonial power. At home and abroad, George III's subjects engaged with a new rhetoric of liberty and radical reform, as they witnessed and reacted to the revolutions in France and America.

The Context of Ideas
• The court of King Charles II championed the right of England's social elite to pursue pleasure and libertinism.
• King Charles II authorized two new companies of actors. Women began to appear on stage in female roles.
• The major idea of the period (founded on Francis Bacon's earlier work) was that of empiricism.
• Empiricism is the direct observation of experience, which infers that experience (including experimentation) is a reliable source of knowledge. John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume all pursued differing interpretations of empiricism, and the concept itself had a profound impact on society and literature.
• Writers (including women such as Mary Astell) began to advocate for improved education for women during this period.
• Around 1750, the word "sentiment" evolved to describe social behavior based in instinctual feeling. Sentiment, and the related notions of sensibility and sympathy, all contributed to a growing sense of the desirability of public philanthropy and social reforms (such as charities for orphans).
• Increased importance was placed on the private, individual life, as is evident in literary forms such as diaries, letters, and the novel.

Conditions of Literary Production
• The term "public sphere" refers to the material texts concerning matters of national interest and also to the public venues (including coffeehouses, clubs, taverns, parks, etc.) where readers circulated and discussed these texts.
• Thanks to greatly increased literacy rates (by 1800, 60-70 percent of adult men could read, versus 25 percent in 1600), the eighteenth century was the first to sustain a large number of professional authors. Genteel writers could benefit from both patronage and the subscription system; "Grub Street" hacks at the lower end of the profession were employed on a piecework basis.
• Women published widely.
• Reading material, though it remained unaffordable to the laboring classes, was frequently shared. Circulating libraries began in the 1740s.

Literary Principles
• Literature from 1660 to 1785 divides into three shorter periods of 40 years each, which can be characterized as shown below.
• 1660-1700 (death of John Dryden): emphasis on "decorum," or critical principles based on what is elegant, fit, and right.[Flores’s note: overstated generalization—decorum was in contention with dissenting perspectives, following disappointment after the initial celebration of the restored monarchy]
• 1700-1745 (deaths of Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope in 1744): emphasis on satire and on a wider public readership.
• 1745-1784 (death of Samuel Johnson): emphasis on revolutionary ideas.
• England's Augustan age was modeled on that of Rome, when Augustus Caesar re-established stability after civil war following Julius Caesar's assassination. English writers, following the restoration of King Charles II, felt themselves to be in a similar situation, in which the arts (repressed under Cromwell) could now flourish.
• English writers endeavored to formulate rules of good writing, modeled on classical works, but with a new appeal to the passions, in simple, often highly visual, language. This embrace of new (neo) aims and old models is called "neoclassicism."
• Horace's phrase,ut picture poesis(meaning "as in painting, so in poetry") was interpreted to mean that poetry ought to be a visual as well as a verbal art.
• Augustan poets began the century's focus on nature, by examining the enduring truths of human nature.
• The classical genres from which Augustan writers sought to learn included epic, tragedy, comedy, pastoral, satire, and ode. Ensuring a good fit between the genre and its style, language, and tone was crucial.
• Augustan writing celebrates wit, or inventiveness, quickness of thought, and aptness of descriptive images or metaphors.
• The heroic couplet (two lines of rhymed iambic pentameter) was the most important verse form of Pope's age, for it combined elegance and wit. Poets also continued to use blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter, not closed in couplets).
• Not just aristocrats and classically educated scholars wrote verse: ordinary people also began to write poetry, often featuring broad humor and burlesque, thereby creating a distinction between high and low verse.

Restoration Literature, 1600-1700
• Dryden was the most influential writer of the Restoration, for he wrote in every form important to the period―occasional verse, comedy, tragedy, heroic plays, odes, satires, translations of classical works—and produced influential critical essays concerning how one ought to write these forms.
• Restoration prose style grew more like witty, urbane conversation and less like the intricate, rhetorical style of previous writers like John Milton and John Donne.
• Simultaneously, Restoration literature continued to appeal to heroic ideals of love and honor, particularly on stage, in heroic tragedy.
• The other major dramatic genre was the Restoration comedy of manners, which emphasizes sexual intrigue and satirizes the elite's social behavior with witty dialogue.

Eighteenth-Century Literature, 1700-1745
• The Augustan era of writers like Swift, Defoe, Pope, Addison, and Steele was rich in satire and new prose forms that blended fact and fiction, such as news, criminal biographies, travelogues, political allegories, and romantic tales.
• Early eighteenth-century drama saw the development of "sentimental comedy" in which goodness and high moral sentiments are emphasized, and the audience is moved not only to laughter, but also to sympathetic tears.
• The theatre business boomed; celebrity performers flourished; less important were the authors of the plays.
• James Thomson's poems on the seasons, beginning with "Winter" (1726), carried on the earlier poetic tradition of pastoral retreat and began a new trend of poetry focused on natural description.

The Emergence of New Literary Themes and Modes, 1740-1785
• Novelists became better known than poets, and intellectual prose forms such as the essay proliferated.
• The mid-eighteenth century is often referred to as the "Age of Johnson" after the renowned essayist Samuel Johnson, who in 1755 wrote one of the first English dictionaries to define word meanings by employing quotations taken from the best English writers, past and present.
• By the 1740s the novel rose to dominate the literary marketplace, with writers like Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, and Laurence Sterne defining the form and its modes of representing the private lives of individuals.
• The late eighteenth century saw a medieval revival, in which writers venerated and imitated archaic language and forms. One important development of this movement was the Gothic novel, which typically features such forbidden themes as incest, murder, necrophilia, atheism, and sexual desire.
• Late eighteenth-century poetry tends to emphasize melancholy, isolation, and reflection, in distinction to the intensely social, often satirical verse of earlier in the period.

Continuity and Revolution
• Some critics place the end of the eighteenth century at 1776 (linking it to the American Revolution); others at 1789 (the beginning of the French Revolution); still others at 1798 (the publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads).
• Later Romantic writers, who valued the idea of originality, also prized the meaning of "revolution" which signified a violent break with the past and often represented their work as offering just such a break with tradition. However, changes to literary forms and content occurred much more gradually than this use of the word "revolution" might suggest.