ENGH 203: Western Literary Tradition

ENGH 203-003: Western Literary Traditions I
(Fall 2022)

10:30 AM to 11:45 AM TR

Thompson Hall 2022

Section Information for Fall 2022

ENGH 203 - 003: Western Literary Traditions I

This course offers a survey of some of the major genres, authors, and texts of the ‘Western Literary Tradition’ – that is, of the works that influenced the literary and philosophical development of what is now called ‘the West.’ But as we read some of the most influential works written during the period stretching from ancient Greece to the Renaissance, we will also devote time to studying the process of canon formation. Why do medieval authors portray themselves as the heirs of Roman rather than Greek culture? Why do Renaissance writers look for their roots in ancient Greece, rather than ancient Mesopotamia? What does it mean to have a ‘renaissance’ at all? What gets preserved, and what gets left behind?


To help us focus on these questions, the texts we read this semester will emphasize the relationship between literature and power. What makes a king ‘good’ or ‘bad’? How does literature shape our expectations and opinions of the political elite? And how does our definition of the ‘canon’ adapt in response to these concerns? By studying how literature shapes our understanding of the world, and how canons are constructed and reconstructed over time, we will gain insight into how our own contemporary concerns shape our conceptions of the ‘Western Literary Tradition.’


Image from BnF MS Fr 2195

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Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Major works of Western literature in historical progression. Focuses on writers such as Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Dante, Cervantes, Machiavelli, and Montaigne. Notes: All readings are in modern English. Courses build on reading and writing skills taught in ENGH 101. Limited to three attempts.
Mason Core: Literature
Recommended Prerequisite: 3 credits of 100-level English.
Schedule Type: Lecture
This course is graded on the Undergraduate Regular scale.

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