English Lit since 1660, Spring 2022

Revised syllabus, 14 Feb: ENG 256W Spring 2022 REV

“a safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds” J.R.R. Tolkien

How to cite

Lingyuan sample research essay Twelfth Night

Mollie Beowulf Sample


Hamlet mixtapes

Course evaluation link








“Thy gentle hand seized mine, I yielded”


Blazing World Excerpt

Is this the seat our conqueror has given?

And this the climate we must change for heaven?

These regions and this realm my wars have got;

This mournful empire is the loser’s lot;

In liquid burnings, or on dry, to dwell,

Is all the sad variety of hell.

“Ay, you may tag my verses if you will.” (Milton to Dryden)

Milton’s Acrostics


Gilbert Stuart, John Adams, American, 1755 – 1828, c. 1800/1815, oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. Robert Homans

That mans Soul, it seems to me, was distended as wide as Creation. His powr over the human mind was absolute and unlimited. His Genius was great beyond Conception, and his Learning without Bounds. I can only gaze at him with astonishment, without comprehending the vast Compass of his Capacity. (John Adams, Diary 1: 23)

Satan’s words “have a long grand sound [. . .] which makes the whole fram of both Reader and Hearer thril with Transport.” [Rebel angels brandishing swords]: “alarms, rouses, astonishes” the mind. Nevertheless, Adams realizes that “The general sentiment is that of Rebellion and Warfare, proclaimed by all the infernal Host against the Almighty, which is a sentiment that cant fail to excite Horror.”

Can one read, without shuddering, this wild reverie of the divine, immortal Milton? [. . .] What! a single assembly govern England? an assembly of senators for life too? What! did Milton’s ideas of liberty and free government extend no further than exchanging one house of lords for another, and making it supreme and perpetual? [. . .] John Milton was as honest a man as his nation ever bred, and as great a friend of liberty; but his greatness most certainly did not consist in knowledge of the nature of man and of government, if we are to judge from this performance. (Works 4: 465-66; qtd. in Patterson 281)


Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)

My belief is that if we live another century or so — I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals — and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.

Lady Mary Chudleigh, 1699:

Woman’s being created last will not be a very great argument to debase the dignity of the female sex. If some of the men own this … ‘tis more likely to be true. The great Milton, a grave author, brings in Adam thus speaking to Eve in Paradise Lost, ‘Oh, fairest of creation, last and best of all God’s works.’

Mary Astell, 1700:

Patience and submission are the only comforts that are left to a poor people who groan under tyranny unless they are strong enough to break the yoke. Not Milton himself would cry up liberty to poor female slaves or plead for the lawfulness or resisting a private tyranny.

An Interesting Narrative  (chapters 1-3)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Signifying Monkey, chapter 3: “The Talking Book”


William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft
“Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers—in a word, better citizens.”






“Mont Blanc was before us, but it was covered with cloud; its base, furrowed with dreadful gaps, was seen above. Pinnacles of snow intolerably bright, part of the chain connected with Mont Blanc, shone through the clouds at intervals on high. I never knew—I never imagined what mountains were before. The immensity of these serial summits excited, when they suddenly burst upon the sight, a sentiment of extatic wonder, not unallied to madness.” Mary and Percy Shelley




















“This grave contains all that was mortal, of a young English poet, who, on his death bed, in the bitterness of his heart, at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraven on his tomb stone “HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER.”

John Keats, Negative Capability

December, 1817 letter:

“Brown and Dilke walked with me and back from the Christmas pantomime. I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason — Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

Keats and Insomnia
Keats and metaphors of depression














The Chimney Sweeper: When my mother died I was very young

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.
There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”
And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;
And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.
And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
There is a greatness which the Paradise Lost possesses over every other Poem.” — Keats annotations here
John Keats’ annotated Paradise Lost

Keats: Negative Capability

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

Sample research essays:

Sample Essay Shakespeare Measure for Measure

Reinventing Shakespeare paper Higinbotham