English Literature and History

English Literature and History

A History of England from the Britons to Queen Victoria and a Survey of English Literature

General Course Description

Student will study a history of England presented chronologically from the Briton to Victorian period. The study will encourage the student to observe the influences of history upon literature and to recognize the importance of having a basic knowledge of history in understanding the content of many classic works. Preceding and following the reading selections are exercises that test the student’s reading comprehension, develop vocabulary, instruct the student on poetics (symbolism, meter, metaphor, etc.) and composition (irony, style, diction, tone, etc.). Prominent authors and works will be read as representative of the various periods and/or of the important historical events studied (for example, Southey’s famous poem “The Battle of Blenheim” will be presented as a period piece of Romantic poetry as well as a work written to defame the so-called victory of the English in the eighteenth-century War of the Spanish Succession). In addition to other writing assignments, student will write various compositions on topics that reinforce his knowledge of English history and literature, (for example, student will write a descriptive essay on the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Battle of Brunanburh.”) Student will study some common essay formats before writing the compositions.

Literature and Reading

Student will be introduced to classic English literature in a chronological survey. Corresponding to the period literature, the dates and details of sovereigns and historical events will be committed to memory. Student will answer questions that exercise reading, writing and word skills. In addition to assigned books, the following works will be studied (many will be adapted to appropriate reading level):

The Briton Period: Selection from The Death of Arthur by Thomas Malory; “Boadicea: An Ode” by William Cowper; “King Leir” by Geoffrey of Monmouth; “King Lear” by Charles and Mary Lamb; King Lear by William Shakespeare (Excerpt); “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred Tennyson; Description of the British People by Julius Caesar   

The Middle Ages: “Cædmon” by Bede; Beowulf (Anonymous); Excerpt from Everyman (Anonymous); “Harp Song of the Dane Women” by Rudyard Kipling; Three Women of the Middle Ages by M. B. Synge; “Robin Hood Turns Butcher” by Howard Pyle; “Bruce to His Men at Bannockburn” by Robert Burns; Geoffrey Chaucer by H. E. Marshall; “The Pardoner’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer; “The Maid’s Sword and Banner” by Mark Twain

The Elizabethan and Stuart Periods: “Lady Jane upon the Scaffold” by John Foxe; Macbeth by William Shakespeare; Selected Poems by George Herbert; “Peace” by Henry Vaughan; “Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls” by John Donne; “Holy Sonnet IV” by John Donne; The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan; Selected Works by John Milton; “Oliver Cromwell” by Nathaniel Hawthorne; “The Great Fire of London” by Samuel Pepys   

The Neoclassical Period: “Being Chased by the King” by Frances Burney; “Tawney Rachel, or the Fortune-Teller” by Hannah More; Selected Poems by Isaac Watts; “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray; “The Diverting History of John Gilpin” by William Cowper; Letters by William Cowper; “The New Neighbor” by Jane Austen   

The Romantic Period: Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake; Selected Poems by William Wordsworth; Selected Poems by George Gordon Byron; Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley; Selected Poems by John Keats; Selected Poems by John Clare; The Death of Horatio Nelson by Robert Southey; “The Battle of Blenheim” by Robert Southey   

The Victorian Period: Selected Poems by Christina Rossetti; Selected Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins; Selected Poems by Thomas Hardy; The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll; Selected Poems by Alfred Tennyson; “The Duty of Remembering the Poor” by C. H. Spurgeon; “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” by Arthur Conan Doyle  


Student will study the structure of a paragraph, including topic sentence and supporting detail. He will learn various essay forms including the descriptive essay, persuasive essay, comparative essay, and the process essay. At least ten essays will be written on various subjects including those discussed in our study of literature. A wide variety of model essays will be given for the student to emulate.

Vocabulary and spelling

Student will learn words taken from the literature read. Regular spelling words will be given.


Student will memorize at least six poems of varying length during the school year and recite two of them in front of a small audience. Authors include classical and Christian poets.

Public Speaking

Student will recite poetry and give a speech in an end-of-the year presentation, dramatizing an historical story in front of an audience.

Video and Audio

Students will listen to and watch various productions of the literary works read.

English History

Literature and Reading

Student will be introduced to English history by reading several general and detailed histories of England as well as classic English literature in a chronological survey. Corresponding to the period literature, the dates and details of sovereigns and historical events will be committed to memory. Through the literature and history, the student will learn the political and religious developments and what caused those changes. Student will recognize the cultural mores and concerns of the various periods as evidenced by the literature. Student will answer multiple choice questions on chapter worksheets that exercise comprehension skills.

Primary-Source Documents

Students will read excerpts from primary source documents, such as letters, official proclamations, charters and laws, and contemporary histories.

Writing About History

Students will write various small essays about the monarchs, wars, periods, etc. Students will also write an illustrated book geared toward second- or third-graders and have it bound. The book will be historical fiction and will feature one of the monarchs.