Emily M. Hinno

Early British Literature can be read as a series of timelines showing the evolution of Western civilization; this literature is a direct reflection of major political, cultural, and societal events and changes taking place from 500 A.D. to the later eighteenth century. While many of the texts are satirical and humorous, they also convey more profound meaning. The idea of literary representations of “truth” is open enough to be relevant to any of the literature we study, from Beowulf to The Canterbury Tales to Twelfth Night to Paradise Lost, although it’s particularly suited to the latter part of the semester when we focus on eighteenth-century literature and culture and emerging ideals of liberty. As a matter of course, we will take up many of the questions inherent in this project: What narratives of truth and equality are depicted, contested, and explored through literary mediums? How have ideas around truth been treated historically, and how do they influence our understandings today? What is the relationship between identity and questions of diversity, equality, and truth? How do past cultures create and interpret conceptions of truth? Students who participate in this extra credit option will modify their Cultural Text Project presentations to focus on an exploration of the ideas of truth and equality and an examination of narratives about the idea of truth as represented by their chosen artifact and literary text. By encountering, analyzing, and discussing these early works of British literature we are not only able to relate them to current times, but we are also able to see how these authors influenced future creative thinkers. It may be especially fruitful to link students’ engagement with early British Literature with contemporary academic conversations inspired by the American Declaration of Independence and its ideals of truth, liberty, justice for all.