English 245 with Dr. G @ SUNY TC3




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Syllabus & Schedule





1. Classical Britain

2. Beowulf 1

3. Beowulf 2

4. Middle Ages

5. Romance

6. Sir Gawain

7. Malory

8. Chaucer's Miller

9. Wife of Bath

10. Religious Protest

11. Biblical Drama

12. Play of Mankind

13. Early Modern Period

14. Thomas More

15. Philip Sidney

16. Print Culture

17. Walter Raleigh

18. Twelfth Night 1

19. Twelfth Night  2

20. Civil War

21. An Age of Irreverence

22. Aphra Behn

23. Reading Papers

24. Gulliver

25. Rape of the Lock

26. School for Scandal

27. New God

28. Revolution

Final Exam




* 28. The American Revolution *



You will not find the readings for this lesson in the textbook.  Use the link below to open the readings.

Revolutionary Britain Source Texts
(Get Adobe Acrobat ReaderTM here to read pdf files.)


This lesson includes both a quiz and a journal writing assignment to be submitted on the interactive course site at  SUNY Learning Network.  See General instructions on Journaling for this course. For a sample journal, see Dr. G's 2007 Brit Lit 1 Journal.


Write for an hour (or more if you have time). Summarize the readings or make notes you will find useful on the final essay, described below. 

from Dr. G, only another American after all!



Then let us boast of ancestors no more,
       Or deeds of heroes done in days of yore

True born Englishmen

Common Sense

Wealth of Nations


When must a subject obey? When is it right to stand up against a king? These questions are posed starkly in writings surrounding the American War of Independence (1775-1783), but they are raised prior to that time in British literature generally

Today they gather in the tax
but, come to handing out, are lax;
the very little they bestow
be sure that everyone will know.

Is this a jingle from the American revolution? Or the contemporary American Tea Party, perhaps? No, it's the Old Woman of Beare from medieval Ireland (see Damrosch 104). She was courted by kings, but only in youth.

Even in the earliest literature, many of the royals are not even nice. Remember Queen Medb's raid to steal the stud bull of the people of Ulster, and how the underdog Cú Chulainn defended their right? How about ranting Herod in the mystery plays (Absolon's favorite role) or all of the uneducable kings that More's Hythlodaeus refuses to advise? Did you like Raleigh's Elizabeth or Milton's Charles, or Pope's Anne? Is Jefferson's George III very much worse? Not that any of these necessarily are fair portraits.

Might makes kings and queens, but few deserving ones in the stories of Britain from long ago. Contestable claims of kingship are challenged from Boudicca's rebellion against Nero, to Arthur's resistance against Saxon kings, to Alfred and Ethelfleda's rescue of Angle-land from Viking and Dane invaders. As ironic as it may seem in the aftermath of the British Empire, the pursuit of freedom is a common occupation of traditional British heroes. Even in "Rule Britannia," the bottom line is that "Britons never will be slaves."

Yet British history to the 18th century may suggest a different conclusion: that Britons for the most part never had been free. The period of foreign domination that began with William the Conqueror in 1066 (or did it really start with Canute or Hengist or Claudius?) stretched forward past depositions of Edward II in 1327, Richard II in 1400, Richard III in 1485, Charles I in 1649, and James II in 1688. After the death of childless Queen Anne (1714), accession of the Hanoverian Georges merely substituted German kings for French ones.

The 18th century was, nevertheless, a period of unprecedented reflection on Britain's historical development and proper role in the world. Criticism of the monarchy and empire reached new heights in both popular and intellectual literature, as readings for this lesson may suggest.  

Left: "St Edward's Crown" from 1661; previous crowns were destroyed by the British people after the Civil War.


Today, Britain's  monarchy continues to perform the important social function of absorbing popular criticism. His highness remains as always surrounded by fools privileged to jest, in good taste or bad, at royal expense.

Daniel Defoe
Defoe's "The True-born Englishman," perhaps the most popular British poem of the 18th century, illustrates a new definition of the national character based on behavior rather than historic bloodlines. England is the melting pot where the tribes and races have intermarried, freeing them of allegiance to foreign powers and foreign ways. With the mixing of blood, the stage is set for a more international or globalized community where ancestral animosities will be carried on no longer. In this humorous poem at least, England is already the place of immigration, self-determination and freedom that America will become two centuries later. Defoe's history lesson is that you would not want to go back: Englishman have become over time a new and improved breed.


Thomas Paine
Thomas PaineThe view of George III as an alien intruder was a common British view that carried over to many of the British colonists in America. From the distance of the New World, the monarchy looked especially unnatural and irrational to Thomas Paine (1737-1809), the Anglo-American prophet of revolution and human rights. In his widely read pamphlet Common Sense (1776) Paine traces kingship back to the illegitimate William the Conqueror who set the pattern for monarchy which makes wars in order to enrich itself by raising taxes on its subjects. The same complaint had been made for hundreds of years in the barons wars against William and his successors: they never conquered "hearts and minds" apart from those in their patronage.

Paine influenced the founders of the United States of America, especially Thomas Jefferson, who similarly conceived the Saxon way of self-determination as the ancient and superior form of government which had been usurped from the people of Britain at the Norman Conquest. Jefferson's Declaration of Independence contended that a subject owes no loyalty to a king who threatens his life, liberty and pursuit of property, and that subjects may replace such a king with a new government formed by common consent of the governed.



Adam Smith, 18th century sketchAdam Smith

The most forward-thinking of all political theorists of the 18th century was Scottish philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790), widely regarded today as the first champion of free market capitalism and global free trade. Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) describes and criticizes the mercantile model of empire which Britain had used since Tudor times to fund its government and favor London merchants on whose support the government historically had depended.  Requiring colonial exporters to sell only to British buyers increased the wealth of British importers, who were free to market the goods wherever they chose, but this profit came at the expense of the off shore colonists, and so the monopoly was a disincentive to colonial production. Everyone would be better off with free trade, Smith asserted, because the colonists would produce more, and they also would be able to afford to buy more from the mother country, thereby stimulating British industry. 

Smith also advocated admission of colonists to the British Parliament, to address their legitimate grievance of "taxation without representation." Entrenched interests in British politics resisted Smith's proposed reforms, and Smith's prediction was fulfilled that the Americans never would be subdued by force.



Adam Smith shown on 20 pound note of Bank of EnglandSmith's also feared, justifiably, that the empire would become an unsustainable drain on the overall economy. It could not bring in sufficient revenue to finance the enormous military costs required for its expansion or defense. (What does this predict about the US world police force?) Smith also seems to have foreseen that the attempt to privatize the empire through the use of trading companies was counter-productive to the national interest in that the companies inevitably were despotic and uncontrollable, making enemies abroad. 

What had imperial Britain learned from its very long and repeated experiences as a European colony? What have we learned from this story?


Boston massacre


Image Left: The Boston massacre 1770, engraving by Paul Revere. Yes, the same patriot who on the night of his famous ride was arrested by British authorities and never reached his destination, despite claims to the contrary on Wikipedia and wherever patriots still reside!  What is history? What is propaganda? Was Longfellow actually Tallfellow?


James Otis

The Rights of British Colonies (1764) from Oxford University

Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe works at Project Gutenberg:

Defoe's Review shown as a blog:

Thomas Jefferson

Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson exhibit:

Library of Congress Tomas Jefferson Web Guide

Revolutionary though it is, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence can be seen as a continuation of an old tradition of libertarian British writings going back to Eikonoklastes, the Provisions of Oxford, and Magna Carta.

Tom Paine

Thomas Paine web video

Thomas Paine National Historical Association

Thomas Paine, Common Sense from Oxford University

Works of Thomas Paine at Project Gutenberg:

Adam Smith

Adam Smith web site:

Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments:

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments from Oxford University. The Wealth of Nations (1776) from Oxford University. The Wealth of Nations from Bartleby.  Wealth of Nations at Project Gutenberg:

Adam Smith's Works and Correspondence:





Know of an excellent website that would wonderfully  complement this lesson? Please send it to Dr. G.


Due December 11, 2012

In an essay of at least 750 words, describe how British literature changed between the Middle Ages and Restoration/Eighteenth Century with respect to one of the following subjects:

1. technologies of literary production;
2. the hero;
3. liberty or freedom;
4. travel or foreign encounter;

5. gender

You may (and should) consult the textbook, your notes and journal, and the course materials when writing this assignment. Although you MAY, I think you should NOT consult secondary sources. If you DO consult them and use them in your essay, they must be cited properly to avoid plagiarism. Also, be sure to cite the textbook if you quote or summarize from it. There is no time limit for writing the essay, but the assignment must be received no later than midnight on December 11.

Use a word processor to write your essay, then submit the essay at our Angel site in SUNY Learning Network by attaching the document in .doc or .rtf file format .

Use MLA citation if your quote, paraphrase or summarize from any source. Use standard English grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.

Forgotten MLA citation?
Dig out your old English 101 manual
or see Diana Hacker's web site at

This assignment is worth
up to 10 course points.


Sample student paper on heroes
Sample student paper on gender


Copyright 2008 by Gary Homer Gutchess