Loyola University Chicago

Department of English

Medieval and Renaissance Sample Courses


ENGL 441: Old English Language and Literature – Dr. Ian Cornelius

In this course we learn to read English from over a millennium ago. The literature written in English between about 600 and 1100 is unusually rich for an early medieval vernacular: about 30,000 lines of poetry survives (including, most famously, Beowulf) and more than ten times as much prose (including medical recipes, chronicles, and the earliest translations of the Bible). The English language has changed so much in subsequent centuries that Old English must now be approached as a foreign language; nevertheless, the language is close enough to Modern English that it may be learned quickly. Learning the language affords unique access to a rich body of literature; it also foregrounds the essential literary-critical enterprise of making sense of text, and it sheds new light on today’s language.

In the first half of this course we learn the basic structure and vocabulary of Old English and learn to translate simple texts. In the second half, readings become more challenging and class discussion becomes more interpretative. Secondary readings introduce us to Anglo-Saxon England and thus help to contextualize our study of language. During the last two weeks we read Beowulf in Seamus Heaney’s translation, with occasional reference to the original Old English. There will be quizzes, an in-class presentation, a midterm, and a final exam. Graduate students will write a short essay.

ENGL 455: Shakespeare - Dr. James Knapp

The past two decades of Shakespeare scholarship have witnessed an increasing emphasis on material culture and the materiality of the early modern stage.  Studies of stage properties, theatrical space, and the material conditions of playing in early modern London have shaped the ways in which we view the interactions of Shakespeare’s characters with their material surroundings.  Likewise the material conditions of the early modern print trade have yielded insights into the relationship that the playwright had with the publication and circulation of his works in both print and manuscript.  This new materially focused scholarship has largely displaced earlier scholarship that had concentrated on Shakespeare’s aesthetics, his place in the history of ideas and the nature of his linguistic innovation.  Yet, the relationship between material existence and the immaterial world of ideas is a consistent focus of the plays and poetry.  This course will examine how a focus on Shakespeare’s interest in the immaterial—the conceptual, spiritual, non-existent—complicates materially inflected readings of his poetry and plays.

ENGL 457: Seventeenth-Century Literature – Dr. Katarzyna Lecky

Savage Romance: Rape Culture in the Early English Empire

We live in a society rife with sexual harassment and sexual assault. Evidence of this rape culture is everywhere: it infects the home, the educational system, the entertainment industry, and national and international governance. And the political nature of this culture is undeniable: rape corrodes structures of justice to systematically strike down humanist ideals of equality and basic rights.

Early modern England had its own version of this culture. The political problems that rape exposed were exacerbated by the fact that the seventeenth-century nation was in the process of transforming into the massive empire of the eighteenth century. As an increasingly imperial England shouldered its role as heir to ancient Rome, it encountered and innovated upon a classical canon that defined rape as simultaneously a tragedy, an inevitability, and a social and imperial good.

This course examines some early modern English literature that grappled with this issue. We'll read drama, poetry, and prose in conjunction with English translations of classical texts to discover how authors such as Aphra Behn, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and William Shakespeare responded to this vexed past as well as its contemporary manifestations. We will also delve into accounts by lesser-known voices in colonial travel narratives and stories of enslavement. We will pair these early modern texts with a range of secondary sources to facilitate our discussions about how this institution still helps codify cultural, economic, ethnic, racial, and statist inequities. Fair warning: the topic is sensitive, and we will not shy away from speaking frankly about it.