Great Books: Seduction and Betrayal

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for ENGLISH 102.


"Great Books: Seduction and Betrayal" is for people who enjoy reading, want to broaden their experience of imaginative writing and want to develop their ability to read attentively and write interestingly about what they read.

Reading is a fundamental skill in contemporary society. It is also a very flexible skill. It serves different purposes and can be deployed in different ways according to need. In this course, we will look at reading as a skill that can analyse, evaluate and respond to the complex verbal worlds of works of fiction. This skill can be applied in many contexts where complex language occurs, as well as for its own sake.

The course examines a selection of exciting and influential fictional works from different periods in the history of English literature. It is organised around the theme of seduction and betrayal, a basic type of story found all over the world. In stories exploring attitudes to love and sex, to politics and ambition, to right conduct and to the business and pleasure of reading itself, we look at how characters offer, accept, experience and lose pleasure. What sorts of seduction and betrayal the chosen works offer their characters and us will be a central question of the course.

As with all "great books" courses, a further aim is to broaden cultural, historical and literary knowledge. The works we will read all have rich histories of interpretation, all offer many avenues for discussion and all promote increased awareness of complex language and human situations. The assessment for the course offers the opportunity to reflect on your experience as a reader with personal habits and practices, to learn about different ways and techniques of reading and to develop and express your views about what you read.

We begin by looking at some aspects of the history and variety of reading, including the introduction of the different “voices” of our lecturers as they begin to read the works they have chosen for the class. Over the semester, each of these lecturers will explore with you how their chosen work is put together, how it achieves its effects and the ways in which it creates the “world” of its characters, beckons you into that world and asks you to experience and evaluate it.

Learning Aims and outcomes

Skills and capacities to be developed in ENGLISH 102/102G include:

  • How to appreciate, evaluate and enjoy complex works of fiction of different kinds
  • How to identify, interpret and respond to complex language and fictional narrative structures
  • How to navigate unfamiliar kinds of English, especially historical ones
  • How to think about the impact of fictions on other aspects of culture and history
  • How to write about works of language and cultural production


Coursework + exam

Availability 2020

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Alex Calder
Lecturer(s) Professor Tom Bishop
Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd
Dr Claudia Marquis


Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice                          

Lord Byron, Don Juan (Canto 1) (provided online)

Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Miller’s Tale” (from Canterbury Tales) (provided online)

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim   

William Shakespeare, Richard III

Selected poets, “Poems of seduction and betrayal” (provided online)

Copies of Austen, Dickens, Conrad and Shakespeare can be obtained through the University Bookstore. The works of Byron, Chaucer and the “Selected Poems” will be placed on Canvas, the University’s Learning Management System.


10 short tutorial quizzes: 10 x 1% (10%)

Two x short (500 words) responses = 1000 words (20%)

One x essay = 1500 words (20%)

One x two-hour examination = 2000 words (50%)


ENGLISH 102: 15 points