ENG208 (sec. 001) – Topics in Early British Literature: Into the Wild
Fall 2012
Mon/Wed 12:00-1:15 pm @Peck Hall 3315

Eileen A. Joy, Assoc. Professor (eileenajoy@gmail.com)
Department of English Language & Literature

Figure 1. Werner Herzog, director of Grizzly Man (2005)

“And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that [Timothy] Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. . . . I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder." (Werner Herzog)

“O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures there are here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / that has such people in it!” (Miranda, in Shakespeare's The Tempest)


The primary objective of this course is to introduce students to representative works in early British literature (Middle Ages through the Enlightenment), grouped around a theme. Prerequisite: ENG101.


This course will serve as an introduction to a few of what may be considered some of the key literary works of the British Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Enlightenment, and it will also be an exploration of the theme of individuals who either seek out or are thrown into wild, unknown, dangerous, and supernatural territories. In these territories (forests, secret islands, the Alaskan wilderness, enchanted castles, haunted caves, stormy heaths, war zones, dark undergrounds, dangerous rivers, uncertain seas, etc.), we will consider the ways in which the human comes up against and struggles against, but also forms alliances with, non- and inhuman figures and forces. This course will also include viewings and discussions of several contemporary films that explore the same thematic territory and that also draw upon the traditions of earlier literatures.

Preparing for and participating in class are vitally important to your ultimate success, and therefore, your contribution to in-class discussions as well as your attendance record will be factored into your final grade. Although I will provide much guidance and commentary, this is a discussion-, not a lecture-centered, course, and therefore students must come to class prepared with critical questions and comments related to the readings and films under discussion. As this is also a reading-intensive course, not keeping up with the reading could be extremely detrimental to your progress and final evaluation. One final (but important) word: coming to class without the text under discussion, or without notes on the text (in the case of online texts) will be automatic grounds for dismissal from that particular class period (and will count as an absence).


Textbook Rental Services:

Stephen Greenblat, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1. 9th edition. W.W. Norton, 2012.

Online Texts:

Shakespeare. The Tempest.


Francis Ford Coppola, dir. Apocalypse Now.

Werner Herzog, dir. Grizzly Man.

Julie Taymor, dir. The Tempest.

Figure 2. Still image from Julie Taymor's The Tempest (2010)


1 Short Essay (40%)

There will be one short essay (approx. 4-5 pages each) in which you will demonstrate your skills at the close analytical reading of a literary text. In this essay, you will practice your hand at literary interpretation, where you produce your own ideas about how texts create meaning. Through close reading, you will look closely at the language of a literary text in order to demonstrate not just what you think the text means, but more importantly how it means what you think it is expressing.

Mid-Term and Final Exam (25% each)

There will be two take-home exams that will comprise a set of short-answer intepretive questions. These exams will not be designed to elicit "right" or "wrong" answers to supposedly objectifiable questions, but rather, are geared toward encouraging you to think creatively about the texts we have read and discussed together in relation to the main themes of the class, and to also help you to showcase your close reading skills.

Class Participation (10%)

As stated above under "Course Description," participation is vital to your success in this course. That means having a good attendance record, coming to class prepared to discuss the readings (with book and notes in hand), and actively contributing to critically engaged conversations with your professor and fellow student-colleagues.

Figure 3. still image from Apocalypse Now (1979)


90-100% A: Exemplary work in all areas identified in assignment instructions
80-89% B: Good in most areas, but some lack of attention to detail is present
70-79% C: Standard work, but needs improvement in numerous areas
60-69% D: Substandard work, needing improvement in all areas
under 60% F: Entirely fails to meet the standards of university work and minimum assignment expectations


Attendance, promptness, and participation are essential to success in college courses. Faculty members recognize that unexpected occasions may arise when a student must be absent from class, but my general attendance policy is that if you are absent more than the number of required class sessions per week (in this case, that would be more than 2 sessions), I have the option of lowering your final course grade by one letter grade for each additional session missed. Furthermore, if absences become excessive (more than two weeks' worth of sessions), the SIUE Registrar, at my request, reserves the right to withdraw you administratively. For more information on this, please consult the following: SIUE Class Attendance Policy. Failure to attend class in a responsible and committed manner may thus be grounds for failure in or administrative withdrawal from the course.


Any student found engaging in an act of academic dishonesty will be promptly dismissed from the course with a grade of "F." By "academic dishonesty," I mean PLAGIARISM (the act of representing the work of another as one's own), which the University considers a grave breach of intellectual integrity. All definitions, terminology, concepts, and patterns of organization taken from an outside source must be identified and given credit in any essay or exam you write--whether it be for the English department or any other department. For more detailed information on this, please consult the following: SIUE Plagiarism Policy.


If you feel that you are entitled to special academic accommodations for documented disabilities, please contact the Disability Support Services office in Rendleman Hall #1218 (Phillip Pownall, Director), or visit their website, and they will help you fill out the necessary paperwork.

Figure 4. Derek Jacobi as King Lear, Brooklen Academy of Music (2011)


Week 1 Mon., Aug. 20 Introduction to Course
  Wed., Aug. 22 View:
    Apocalypse Now (film)
    Anonymous, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Reading Questions: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Reading Notes: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Anniina Jokinen, "Heroes of the Middle Ages"
    Chivalry (Wikipedia)
    In Our Time: The Fisher King (BBC4 Radio Show)
Week 2 Mon., Aug 27


    Apocalypse Now (film)
  Wed., Aug. 29 No Class -- Professor @Univ. of Alabama
Week 3 Mon., Sep. 3 No Class -- Labor Day Holiday
  Wed., Sep 5 Discuss:
    Apocalypse Now & Gawain and the Green Knight
Week 4 Mon., Sep 10 Discuss:
    Apocalypse Now & Gawain and the Green Knight
  Wed., Sep. 12 Discuss:
    Apocalypse Now & Gawain and the Green Knight
Week 5 Mon., Sep. 17 Read & Discuss:
    Shakespeare, King Lear
    Synopsis & Backround to King Lear (Wikipedia)
    Ian Johnston, "Speak What We Feel: An Introduction to King Lear"
    In Our Time: Lear (BBC4 Radio Show)
    Aid: Shakespeare Glossary
  Wed., Sep. 19 No Class -- Professor @Northeastern University
Week 6 Mon., Sep. 24 Discuss:
    Shakespeare, King Lear
  Wed., Sep. 26 Discuss:
    Shakespeare, King Lear
Week 7 Mon., Oct. 1 View:
    The Tempest (film)
    Shakespeare, The Tempest
    Synopsis and Background to The Tempest (Wikipedia)
    Ian Johnston, "You Can Go Home Again, Can't You? Shakespeare's The Tempest"
  Wed., Oct. 3 View:
    The Tempest (film)
Week 8 Mon., Oct. 8 Discuss:
    The Tempest (play & film)
  Wed., Oct. 10 Discuss:
    The Tempest (play & film)
Week 9 Mon., Oct. 15 Discuss:
    The Tempest (play & film)
  Wed., Oct. 17 Discuss:
    The Tempest (play & film)
Week 10 Mon., Oct. 22 Due: Mid-Term Exam
    Read & Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV
    Outline of Paradise Lost
    Notes on Paradise Lost (Books IV, IX, and XII)
    Ian Johnston, "On Milton's Paradise Lost"
  Wed., Oct. 24 Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV
Week 11 Mon., Oct. 29 Read:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV
  Wed., Oct 31 Read & Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IX
Week 12 Mon., Nov. 5 Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IX
  Wed., Nov. 7 Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IX
Week 13 Mon., Nov. 12 Read & Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XII
  Wed., Nov. 14 Discuss:
    Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XII
    Due: Short Essay (to be emailed to professor: eileenajoy@gmail.com)
Week 14 Nov. 19-23 No Class -- Thanksgiving Break
Week 15 Mon., Nov. 26 View:
    Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, dir.)
    Jonathan Swift, "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms" (from Gulliver's Travels: Part IV)
    Ned Zeman, "Timothy Treadwell: The Man Who Loved Grizzlies" (Vanity Fair article)
    Background: Jonathan Swift
    Synopsis and Background to Gulliver's Travels
    Satire (Wikipedia)
    Ian Johnston, "On Swift's Gulliver's Travels"
  Wed., Nov. 28 View:
    Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, dir.)
Week 16 Mon., Dec. 3 Discuss:
    "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms" & Grizzly Man
  Wed., Dec 5 Discuss:
    "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms" & Grizzly Man
FINAL EXAM   Final Exam Due: Friday, December 14th (to be emailed to professor: eileenajoy@gmail.com)

Figure 5. detail of one of William Blake's illustrations for Paradise Lost