Sign Up for 42W Next Fall: Myths of Britain

Professor Jeffrey Cohen writes to tell you about his fantastic Myths of Britain course next fall. There are still a few spots left, so make sure to sign up. You are guaranteed an amazing semester. This was the course that affirmed why I wanted to be an English major!

The English Department recently gave my “Myths of Britain” course a new number, 42W (it had been 40W). It still counts as a gateway to the major, just like 40W did; it also counts towards the GCR as a WID class.

“Myths of Britain” is meant to be a more exciting and engaging version of the venerable “Introduction to English Literature” class that every university has long had on its books. The course gives English majors a useful background to the field and will challenge you (I hope) to think deeply about how we analyze any text from any period, as well as what tends to vanish when we talk about literary history. We read books slowly and carefully; the class gives you time to linger over rather than skim what’s on the syllabus. Everything we read is also quite engaging, from Shakespeare’s Tempest to Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.

I am pasting the course description below. The class has room in it for the fall semester, and I would love to see some more of our English majors in it! The class meets on Mondays at 11.10 for lecture and then breaks into smaller sections Wednesdays:

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Much great English literature turns out not to be so English after all: the action of the epic Beowulf unfolds in Scandinavia; King Arthur was a Welsh king before he was an English monarch; Shakespeare’s Tempest takes place on an island in the Mediterranean, but the play is also about the colonization of the New World. “Myths of Britain” looks at the early island within a transnational frame. We explore literature as a way to imagine collective and individual identities, and — as art — a vehicle for escaping their constraints. Among our recurring keywords: heroism, monstrosity, community, travel, enjoyment, beauty, creation, art, authorship, sexuality, death.

The mission of this course is threefold:

(1) to give you the chance to hone your writing through the careful analysis of literature within its historical context

(2) to introduce you to contemporary scholarly methods of studying early England within a transnational frame

(3) to explore the relation between narrating the past and bringing about a desired future, paying close attention to who is excluded from this emergent community

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