Walls of Words

Nicole Lobdell

Nicole Lobdell is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English in 19th-century British literature at DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.




ENG 281 surveys British literature from approximately 680 CE to 1800 CE. Survey courses such as this are reading intensive with the goal that students will cover, or “survey,” a large sample of texts and authors. To this end, we'll begin with Old English literature such as “The Wanderer” and Beowulf, which reflect Britain's tribal and Anglo-Saxon past, and the move on to Chaucer's Middle English with Canterbury Tales, followed by the Early-Modern English of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Then we will explore the politics and literature surrounding the period directly after England’s Civil War (1642-1651), and finally conclude with eighteenth-century literature including a reading of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Accessible to students from every discipline, the course covers mostly canonical authors across a variety of genres and addresses the shifts in the literary landscape. While we will cover some historical and cultural contexts, the focus of the course will be on the literary artifacts and learning and applying the techniques and tools of literary analysis. Specific skill goals for this course include close-reading skills, historical contextualizing, or the ability to understand the relationship between texts and the periods in which they are written, as well as experience with a variety of texts including poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, and secular and sacred texts. Students should also leave the course with a broad understanding of the major movements. To a degree, literature represents some kind of historical moment, but it’s also important to recognize that stories communicate something to other moments in time. One question that I hope we will examine repeatedly is: what do these stories communicate to our time?