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ENGL 1500 Masterpieces of British Literature


Christie Leopold

Email: Christie.Putnam@Colorado.EDU


Ever wondered why tales of knights, dragons, and sorcery are so popular (replace with Game of Thrones)? Have you also ever wondered why these tales seem so quintessentially British? In our short, ten-week course, we will investigate one of the most famous narratives in British literature – the Arthurian Legend. Full of prophesied rulers, honorable and dishonorable knights, magical beings, and mythological animals, Britain’s Arthurian legend spins a tale of national identity, mythological origins, and enduring power. We will begin our foray into this pervasive narrative with a 20th and 21st century British author’s use of this narrative (T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant). We will then analyze some of the early instances of this narrative in medieval (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), early-modern (Shakespeare’s Cymbeline), and modern literature (Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe). Through these readings and weekly assignments, we will explore important literary, historical, cultural, and national narratives in these masterpieces of British literature.


Throughout this course you will learn to:

  • Identify and classify the pervasive Arthurian and romance genres of British literature
  • Discuss the elements of each text and learn to interpret their meanings and functions
  • Locate, analyze, and evaluate texts in their proper cultural, social, and historical frames
  • Recognize, discuss, and manipulate various reading practices and literary theories applicable
  • Learn to analyze, in written form, your evolving interpretations


In reading order;

  • H. White, The Once and Future King (ISBN 978-0441627400)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (ISBN 978-0307455796)
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Simon Armitage (ISBN 978-0393334159)
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales 
  • Shakespeare, Cymbeline (ISBN: 978-0671722593)*
  • Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (ISBN 978-0140436587)


Zoom Hangout Participation 20%
Weekly Blogs 20%
Twitter Assignments 15%
Creative Journals 15%
Group Project 25%
Questionnaires (2) 5%

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