British Literature


British Literature

Course Description:

This course will prepare students to read and write at a pre-AP level. Students will study British Literature, from the Anglo Saxon to the contemporary. Throughout the year, students will read works from multiple literary genres, including short stories, poetry, play and novels. We will attempt to situate works in their social and cultural context, with attention to literary movement, historical period, author biography and genre.

Students can expect roughly 20 pages of active reading each night. Active reading requires annotation, critical thinking and, oftentimes, re-reading. Students can expect to encounter unfamiliar words, phrases and allusions in their nightly readings, and are expected to look them up prior to class.

In conjunction with selected readings, students will be provided with opportunities for various types of writing, ranging from formal essays to creative compositions. All major writing assignments will go through multiple stages before they are complete; expect to submit an outline, rough draft and final draft for each. Students will complete peer reviews and participate in writing workshops and teacher-student conferences to aid in the editing process.



English Literature: with World Masterpieces, Macmillan Literature Series, Glencoe

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (any publisher)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro; published by Vintage International

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde; published by Avon

Emma by Jane Austen, any publisher


Course Objectives:


  •  compose various formal essays (e.g. narrative, persuasive, expository) with a focus on textual analysis
  • compose original, sophisticated theses
  • support analysis through thoughtfully-structured paragraphs
  • revise essays for improvement in content, structure, and style
  • demonstrate mastery of grammar and usage



  • demonstrate a pre-AP level of close reading in a variety of literary genres, including short fiction, novels, poetry and drama
  • expand upon their knowledge of literary terms
  • build and apply SAT-level vocabulary



Scope and Sequence:

Each unit will include a longer work (a novel, novella, or play) in addition to shorter selected readings.  The surveys will follow a chronological order, while the longer works will be assigned outside of chronology. Quizzes will cover nightly reading, vocabulary, and literary terminology, while an exam will cover each long work. Students will have a variety of written assignments, ranging from reading responses to formal essays.  In addition to critical writings, students will be assigned a few creative and interpretive assignments to help further their understanding of a particular genre or style.

Unit I: Survey of the Anglo Saxon and Medieval Period

  • Students will read and analyze selections from English Literature and outside texts, including excerpts from Beowulf,  Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur
  • Major writing assignment: Students will choose an Anglo Saxon or Medieval text, and analyze how the text’s protagonist embodies that period’s heroic ideals
  • Key literary concepts: vernacular, epic poetry, lyric poetry, elegy, folk ballad, frame narrative, myth, legend, quatrain, scansion iamb, trochee, trimeter, tetrameter


Unit II: Novel: The Remains of the Day

  • Major writing assignment: Students will compose a persuasive essay on the use of unreliable narration in The Remains of the Day
  • Key literary concepts: unreliable narrator, motif, realism, comedy of manners, flashback, symbolism, conflict, complication, setting, pathos, tragic hero


Unit III: Survey of Elizabethan through Eighteenth Century Literature

  • Students will read and analyze selections from English Literature and outside texts, including short works by Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Dryden, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and William Blake
  • Creative writing assignment: Students will compose an original Spenserian or Shakespearean sonnet
  • Key literary concepts: Petrarchan sonnet, blank verse, octave, sestet, allegory, Spenserian sonnet, pastoral, Shakespearean sonnet, couplet, conceit, heroic stanzas, parody, mock-epic


Unit IV: Novella: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr., Hyde

  • Major writing assignment: Students will explore the theme of duality and human nature in an analytical essay
  • Key literary concepts: novella, suspense, gothic, horror, doppelganger, antihero


Unit V: Survey of Romantic and Victorian Literature

  • Students will read and analyze selections from English Literature and outside texts, including works by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy, A.E. Housman
  • Major writing assignment: Students will compare and contrast the style of two Romantic poets, with a focus on theme, style and language
  • Key literary concepts: neoclassical, romantic, chiasmus, masculine and feminine rhyme, dirge, ode, apostrophe, Naturalism, Psychological Realism, dramatic monologue, nonce verse, narrative poetry, dramatic poetry


Unit VI: Novel: Emma

  • Major writing assignment: students will discuss how Jane Austen explores the roles of women in Emma, using examples of characters in the novel to illustrate the options available to women at the time she was writing. They will expand on those examples by including outside research.


  • Key literary concepts: riddle, omniscience, coming-of-age, satire, irony, free indirect discourse, foreshadowing



Unit VII: Survey of Modern British Poetry

  • Students will read and analyze selection from English Literature and outside texts, including works by William Butler Yeats, Louis MacNeice, W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, Wilfred Owen, Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin
  • Key literary concepts: modernism, free verse, Symbolist, allusion, villanelle, metonymy, synecdoche, caesura


Unit VIII: The College Essay

  • Major writing assignment: Students will research college essay prompts for potential colleges and compose an essay for application
  • Key ideas: audience, tone, diction


Unit IX: Play: The Importance of Being Earnest

  • Major writing assignment: Students will write an additional scene from The Importance of Being Earnest in the style and format of Wilde. The new scene can be from any point in the narrative—before, during or after. The scene should show an understanding of Wilde’s use of irony, epigram, and satire. A page-long explanation of the writing process should be included.
  • Key literary concepts: epigram, pun, farce, art for art’s sake, dramatic irony, situational irony, verbal irony, aside, monologue, soliloquy, fourth wall, stage direction, act, scene