ENGL 1500 Introduction to British Literature

Instructor Contact:

Grace Rexroth, PhD Candidate

Email: Grace.Rexroth@colorado.edu

About the Course:

Disaster, Revolution, Plague: Reading for a World on Fire

In her book, What It Is, Lynda Barry writes, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.” What Barry is suggesting here is that literature offers us more than just entertaining stories—it is also a unique tool for navigating times of crisis. As Jarod Roselló writes, literature is also “a flashlight, a map, a shield, a sword”—a promise to keep going, even in the worst of times. In ENGL 1500, we will be examining what generations of readers and critics have heralded as the “best” works of British literature—and we’ll be focusing specifically on what people wrote and read during times of great social and political upheaval.  You will be invited into the romance and adventure of novels, short stories, and plays while also considering their cultural, historical, and political effects. We will study writers like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen as well as authors with whom you may be less familiar. We’ll read “serious” literature alongside popular genres like gothic and early crime fiction. We will also examine major developments in British poetry, while critically examining what good poetry is and does. Throughout this class you will be asked to consider: what makes a piece of literature good, beautiful, or meaningful?  Who decides?   This is a course that will teach you not just to read and interpret the British literary canon, but how to understand the legacy of those stories—how the best works of British literature continue to shape our world and ourselves—especially in moments of crisis.


  1. Gain an initial exposure to a number of literary works composed by British writers
  2. Demonstrate comprehension of the historical circumstances in which each work was produced, from the Shakespeare to the present
  3. Develop and use a vocabulary of literary terms and concepts
  4. Identify and describe characters, plots, significant passages, and themes in selected works
  5. Apply techniques of close reading to texts to be able to identify, define, and discuss genre, poetic language, poetic form, tone, audience, allusions, imagery, rhetorical devices, etc.
  6. Formulate an interpretative thesis and defend it with analysis of textual evidence, as demonstrated in frequent writing assignments (discussion posts and papers)
  7. Distill the breadth of class discussion, lecture material, and literary musing into concise, focused, and formal prose pieces of literary analysis

Required Texts:

  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Penguin Classics, (1813) 1996.
  • Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Norton Critical Edition, 2001.
  • Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. Vintage Books, 1988.
  • More, Alan. V for Vendetta. Vertigo, (1982) 2008.
  • Shakespeare, William. Merchant of Venice. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, (1604) 2007.

In addition to the books listed above, there will be additional readings available on Canvas.  Links to these readings can be found through the course Modules tab, in the weekly overviews.

Grading (out of 1000 points):

Table – Grading Scale
Letter Grade A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
Percentage Grade 94-100 90-93 87-89 83-86 80-82 77-79 73-76 70-72 67-69 63-66 60-62 <60
Total Points 940-1000 900-939 870-899 830-869 800-829 770-799 730-769 700-729 670-699 630-669 600-629 -599

Introductory Assignments (50 points or 5% of overall grade)

  • Syllabus Quiz | 30 points
  • Introductory Bio | 20 points

Short Weekly Assignments: (650 points or 65% of overall grade)

  • Discussion Posts and Responses (5 sets) | 250 points total
    • Posts (300 words) | 30 points each
    • Responses (200 words) | 20 points each
  • Worksheets (7) | 200 points total
    • Oxford English Dictionary Worksheet | 30 points
    • Satire Worksheet | 25 points
    • Romantic Poetry Worksheet | 30 points
    • Thesis-Building Worksheet | 30 points
    • Victorian Poetry Worksheet | 30 points
    • Modernism Poetry Worksheet | 30 points
    • Media Theory Worksheet | 25 points
  • Quizzes (5) | 200 points total
    • 10 Quizzes | 20 points each

Longer Assignments: (300 points or 30% of overall grade)

  • First Paper | 150 points total
    • Paper Proposal (1-2 pages) | 50 points
    • First Paper (4-5 pages) | 100 points
  • Second Paper or Creative Project | 150 points total
    • Proposal (1-2 pages) | 50 points
    • Paper/Project | 100 points



Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado