ENLT 1200: Literature, Culture, and Society

Literature, Culture, and Society
Course in English Literature
Course Description:

Stories matter. They encourage imagination through visions of what could be, even as they challenge us to think critically about the historical realities that influence our daily experinces. Stories also connect us within a web of social and cultural relations that are often hidden in plain view. In this course, we’ll explore what this means for each of us through reading, writing, and other forms of active engagment with a wide array of literary texts. Some texts will challenge us to question who we are, what we think, and which roles we play in the world. Others will invite us to reflect on how meaning-making operates across genre, space, and time. But all will offer us examples of why storytelling is a key component of what makes us human.

This course is for everyone, including folks who might not traditionally gravitate toward studying literature. During our time together, we’ll build foundations for close reading and critical analysis while engaging with physical and digital texts—from classical epics to future-focused media. We’ll even play with emergent ideas about society and culture that propose concrete steps for making a better world. The goal is to practice deep work with diverse stories that reflect who we are and what we hope to become.

The course will revolve around five guiding questions, including:

  • How do literary texts reflect, challenge, and influence cultural norms, identities, and societal structures?
  • What roles do narratives play in shaping our perceptions of social hierarchies, politics, and power relations?
  • How can we craft compelling, thoughtful, responses to complex work?
  • How do we interpret notions of gender, race, sexuality, and class through literature?
  • What can creative work teach us about our personal and professional lives?

You have the option to enroll in the individual course without committing to the entire concentration or degree, enjoying the flexibility and expertise offered by Penn LPS Online to suit your schedule and interests.

Course Credits:
1 course unit (c.u.)*
Term Format:
Accelerated 8-Week Term
2024 Term Offered:
Spring 2 (accelerated): Mar 18 – May 14, 2024
Course Availability:
This course may not be offered every academic year. Check this page or our course guide to see when upcoming terms are added.

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.


  • Director of Curriculum Design, Arts and Sciences Online Learning, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Clayton Colmon is the director of curriculum design for the Arts and Sciences Online Learning team at Penn. In this role, he works with instructors to conceptualize, create, and support educational experiences. Clay believes lifelong learning is integral to any sustainable social system and… Read more


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