The present survey course covers a timespan of fourteen centuries, tracing the progress of one of the most prestigious literatures in the world. On establishing a great tradition of key texts on an undergraduate course manageable within one year, the author has been faced with difficult choices: whether a comprehensive coverage would be better than an in-depth approach, favouring intense tuition to the expense of wide reading; whether one should think of one ideal syllabus or opt for a realistic one, satisfying both curricular requirements and the amount of information that can reasonably be handled by beginners in literary history and theory. We hope to have untied rather than cut this Gordian knot by including in our canon those texts which are highly representative of each historical paradigm, while being dismissive of those  which, although not lacking in literary merit, do no fit into the respective pattern. In this way our students will become aware of the way literature works, of the meaningful design a critical historian will always discover in the apparently chaotic mass of texts makig up a people’s literary heritage. It does not necessarily mean that we are going to observe the authority of previous readers, dealing with already classified stuff in a dead museum of literary fossils. As we move back into history, we take the present with us, judging the literary past according to standards of the present, opening new perspectives on tradition and the way which  it works within our changed horizon of expectations. Our lectures will be little in the way of a “story” or storage of facts, the literary historian being permanently backed by the critic and theoretician. Students are expected not only to amass a certain amount of historical information but also to develop philological skills enabling them to identify, when presented with an unknown text, its theoretical and formal (genre, literary convention, rhetorical strategies) features. Each main division in the history of English literature from the origins to the present will focus four aspects: a historical mapping (negotiations between literature and society) the epistemological paradigm (literature in the context of the other discourses of the age), representative writers and paradigmatic texts.




© Universitatea din Bucuresti 2004.
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This book was first published on paper at the Editura Universitatii, under ISBN 973-575-835-0
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