All Courses

European Literature (Regan)

ENG 101/102

European Literature (Regan)

  • Course ID:ENG 101/102
  • Semesters:2
  • Department:English
  • Course Rank:Required
  • Teachers:Brendan Regan

Description and Objectives

This course is a philosophical study of western civilization by way of some of its most foundational literary and historical texts—from the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of Napoleon.  This course seeks to cultivate praesentia animi, a virtue of classical antiquity prized by medieval and early modern thinkers that translates as “presence of mind.”  Through exposure to these great works, students will strengthen their abilities to read closely, write clearly, and think lucidly.

The primary goals of this course:

  1. Acquire comprehensive knowledge of major historical figures and events
  2. Learn to read more carefully and thoughtfully by examining major literary texts
  3. Become more proficient in the art of writing
  4. Acquire the ability to enter into lucid and mature dialectic with classmates and the teacher
  5. Improve presence of mind and grow in prudence and wisdom


  • History
      • Ancient and Medieval Worlds by Helen Howe and Robert T. Howe. ISBN 0-582-36758-1
      • The Modern World by Harriette Flory and Samuel Jenike. ISBN 0-582-36756-5
  • Literature
      • The Aeneid by Virgil. ISBN 0140449329
      • Beowulf. ISBN 0451530969
      • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. ISBN 0451531191
      • Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ISBN 0553210823
      • Henry V by William Shakespeare. ISBN 0486428877
      • Selections from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. ISBN 0486404277
      • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. ISBN 0451532244
      • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. ISBN 0486406512


Outline of Topics Covered:

In addition to a reading of the above texts, our survey of medieval and early modern history will cover the following topics:

  • From Ancient Times to Middle Ages
    • The decline of Rome and the rise of Christianity—Diocletian and Constantine; the setting for Christianity and its spreading; the early Church; Church controversies; the Church fathers
    • The Byzantine Empire—Constantinople; Justinian; Heraclius, Leo III, the Macedonian dynasty; the decline of the empire; theological controversies
    • The Islamic World—Life of Mohammed; teachings of Islam; the Omayyad dynasty; the Abbasid Caliphate; Islamic Spain
  • The Middle Ages
    • Europe under pressure—Germanic migrations; the Merovingians; the Carolingian Empire; the Vikings; the Moslems; the Magyars
    • The Church in the Middle Ages—Civil role of the Church; Canon Law; Monasticism and its reforms; Mendicant friars; the Crusades
    • Medieval Society—Feudalism; manorialism; growth of towns
    • The flowering of medieval civilization—Learning and education; medieval science; literature; architecture
  • The Emergence of Nation States
    • The Holy Roman Empire—The Saxons; the Franconians; the Hohenstaufens
    • England—Norman conquest; the Magna Carta; origins of Parliament; Hundred Years’ Wars; Wars of the Roses
    • France—Hundred Years’ Wars; the French nation-states
    • Nation Building on the Periphery—Spain; Portugal; the Swiss confederation; eastern Europe; Russia
  • Europe in Transition
    • Economic Development—Agricultural and technological development; trade and commerce; guilds; the Plague
    • Renaissance—Italy; Humanism; the Early and High Renaissance; invention of printing
  • The Beginnings of Modern Europe
    • Reformation—Luther; Calvin; the Catholic reformation
    • Politics, Religion, and International Relations—Spain; Tudor England; civil war in France; the Thirty Years’ War
    • European Exploration and Expansion—Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English exploration and conquest
  • The Rise of Nation States
    • France and the age of Louis XIV—His domestic policies and wars
    • Constitutionalism in England—The Stuarts; the Interregnum; the Restoration; the Glorious Revolution; the Hanoverians
    • Eastern and Central Europe—The Hapsburgs; the rise of Prussia; the emergence of Russia
  • Revolution
    • The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment—Bacon; Descartes; Copernicus; Galileo
    • The French Revolution—Its causes and progression; the rise of Napoleon

Course Requirements

Students should expect daily reading assignments, weekly writing assignments and exams, and periodic evaluations of their reading and class notes.  In addition, students will be required to memorize and to recite key passages from the texts.

  • The final grade each quarter will be based on a point system. The points will consist of the following:
    • Exams (of varying point values, between 50-100 points each)
    • Quizzes (of varying point values, between 10-50 points each)
    • Writing Assignments (between 50-100 points each)
    • Recitations (of varying point values, between 50-100 points each)
    • Notes (of varying point values, between 10-50 points each)
    • Participation (points awarded at teacher’s discretion, determined by the effectiveness of the participation)


  • Exams will require knowledge of objective facts, but they will also evaluate the student’s ability to think and to synthesize material critically. The examinations will be composed of the following types of questions:
    • Matching
    • Fill-in-the-blank
    • Short answer
    • Definition/term identification
    • Quotation identification
    • Document (primary source) based essay questions
    • General essay questions

There will be comprehensive mid-semester and final examinations.


  • Quizzes may be announced or unannounced. Vocabulary quizzes will take place generally on a weekly basis and will be announced.  On the mid-semester and final examinations, comprehensive knowledge of all the semester’s vocabulary words will be required.


  • Writing assignments will be completed in class or at home and will typically take place each week.
    • In-class writing assignments will usually be open-book.
    • Take-home writing assignments must be typed and cite the text(s) according to MLA format.
      • Regarding late papers. Late papers will be accepted, but with a penalty of minus 10 points for every class period the assignment is late.  After 10 class periods, the assignments will be graded as a 0.


  • Periodically, students will be required to memorize passages from the texts. Good eye-contact, accurate intonation, and smooth delivery—all achieved by much practice—will be essential.


  • Students need to keep class notes. Requirements will be specified on a separate handout.  On an unannounced and quarterly basis, notes will be graded.


  • Students will organize their class materials in a folder, which will be evaluated on a regular basis. Organization requirements will be specified the first day of class.


  • Class participation is required whether it takes the form of effective insights or the asking of probing questions.  Comportment, attention to detail, and sustained improvement over time in the student’s work will also factor into class participation.  The teacher will keep an account of how well students are participating, and students can approach the teacher at any time to ask about how well they are performing in this respect.  At the end of each grading period, class participation will play a substantial role in improving, maintaining, or decreasing the student’s grade for the quarter.

Successful Students

  • The successful student must maintain daily reading and writing schedules and avoid waiting for deadlines to complete work.  Reading and writing, which is spaced out over a proper amount of time, allows for adequate mental digestion, more effective intellectual nourishment, and more advanced writing instruction.
  • Successful students will consult with the instructor frequently to discuss the texts, as well as rough drafts. I am available outside of class and will make myself available for extra help whenever an appointment is needed.  I encourage parents to contact me with any questions or concerns either by email or phone.
  • At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will have a solid grasp of the literary and historical antecedents for our own modern era. He will also be able to speak and write his thoughts more clearly.  The successful student will leave the course after making strides in those virtues especially concerned with presence of mind.