The purpose of this course is to explore the relationship between literature and its cultural and historical contexts with the methodological premise that literature both reflects and helps to shape the culture in which it is written. How do literary texts grapple with and even intervene in central political, religious, and cultural questions and debates? How are prevailing cultural values and beliefs embedded in and challenged by literature? While attending to questions of genre, authorship, and historical and cultural context, the course may consist of selected readings of early Western literature chosen from its beginnings in the Homeric epics, Greek tragedies, and the Hebrew Testament; through major works of Christian culture in the Middle Ages, such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Dante’s Divine Comedy; to the revival of classical learning in the Renaissance, embodied in the work of such authors as William Shakespeare and John Milton; through authors of the Enlightenment including Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Benjamin Franklin. The course may examine classical and Biblical works in translation, as well as works originally written in English. Always, however, this course will explore something of what early literature in the West tells us about changing notions of the spiritual and the material, of the relationship between self and society, of heroism, faith, love and redemption—and the relationship of these ideals to our world today. Different topics include “Troy through Time”; “Britain’s Greatest Hits, from Beowulf to Gulliver’s Travels”; “Epic Journeys: Middle Ages to the Renaissance”; and “Authors and Authority from the Middle Ages through the Protestant Reformation.” Formerly ENGL 281; not open to students who have received credit for ENGL 281 unless permission granted by the department chair. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanities. Prerequisite or co-requisite: English 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.