British & World Literature

British & World Literature


In this class, Thomas Purifoy will explore some of the greatest epics and books written in the history of the world. Thomas is an author and teacher who studied English and Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University. He takes a special interest in understanding the way literature functions, as well as how we write about it.

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This course explores the perennial theme of man trying to achieve happiness in spite of the difficulties of life. It involves heavy reading, and will include either entire books or sections from The Odyssey, Augustine’s Confessions, The Divine Comedy, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Hamlet, Paradise Lost, Pride & Prejudice, Heart of Darkness, and important British poets.

Regular writing assignments included local students presenting papers publicly to the class in a seminar-style setting, in addition to regular discussion.

This course is part of the Compass Lectures Series where veteran teachers are filmed as they teach in an actual classroom. This product includes streaming access to the videos filmed live in Nashville. Assignments for local students are explained on the videos and in the course steps. However, parents are solely responsible for assigning and grading this work.

Required Books

Note: The Sayers versions are very important to obtain because of the translation and pagination; the other editions are usually recommended because of the introduction or included essays discussed in class. 

  1. Invitation to the Classics – Os Guinness and Louise Cowan
  2. The Odyssey – Richard Lattimore Translation
  3. Augustine’s Confessions – Translated by Thomas Williams (2019)
  4. The Divine Comedy – 3 Vols – Dorothy Sayers (Penguin) (it’s possible these are on other sites, but I just couldn’t easily find them)
    • Hell, Vol 1
    • Purgatory, Vol 2
    • Paradise, Vol 3
  5. Gawain and the Green Knight – Marie Borroff translation
  6. Hamlet – Shakespeare, Folger Library (any edition)
  7. Paradise Lost – John Milton (Norton Critical Edition by Scott Elledge)
  8. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (any Norton Critical Edition)
  9. Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  10. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (any Norton Critical Edition)
  11. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
  12. Six Centuries of Great Poetry – Warren and Erskine
  13. On Writing Well – William Zinsser (any edition will work). Referenced from time to time in class, but meant for students to read on their own.
  14. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White (any edition will work). Referenced from time to time in class, but meant for students to read on their own.

Copies of these books can be acquired on Amazon,, Better World Books, and Half Price Books.

Thomas Purifoy is a producer, writer, and director with Compass Cinema & Compass Classroom. He has been the director of a classical school in France where he taught 20th Century History, English Literature, Film History, Old Testament, and Philosophy. Thomas has also served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and is a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He is married and has three daughters.

License: This product is licensed for use by one family. For group, co-op, or school use, each family will need to purchase a copy or purchase licenses for each student. For more information, visit our group license page.

Additional information





1 HS English Credit

Credit Amount


Thomas Purifoy



Lesson Runtime

1 hour runtime per lecture





Download Scope & Sequence With Assignments

  1. Introduction & the World of Homer
  2. Lecture – Exploring The Odyssey
  3. Paper Presentations – The Odyssey
  4. Lecture – Augustine’s World & Confessions
  5. Lecture – Exploring the Confessions
  6. Paper Presentations – The Confessions
  7. Lecture – Introduction to the World of Dante
  8. Lecture – The Divine Comedy “Hell”
  9. Lecture – The Divine Comedy “Purgatory”
  10. Lecture – The Divine Comedy “Paradise”
  11. Lecture – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  12. Paper Presentations – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  13. Lecture – Hamlet
  14. Lecture – Hamlet (Pt. 2)
  15. Paper Presentations – Hamlet
  16. Lecture – Shakespeare, Donne, and the Cavalier Poets
  17. Lecture – Paradise Lost
  18. Lecture – C.S. Lewis on Paradise Lost
  19. Lecture – Pride & Prejudice and Introduction to Literary Criticism
  20. Lecture – Pride & Prejudice and Q&A on Literary Criticism
  21. Paper Presentations – Pride & Prejudice
  22. Paper Presentations – Pride and Prejudice (Second drafts)
  23. Lecture – The Romantic Poets
  24. Lecture – A Tale of Two Cities
  25. Lecture – The Victorian Poets
  26. Lecture – Heart of Darkness
  27. Paper Presentations – Heart of Darkness
  28. Lecture – The Modern Poets

Sample Lesson

This lecture was delivered during the second week of live classes. Thomas goes over the Odyssey with his students.

Here’s the homework the students were assigned:
  • Your assignment is to write a 2 page paper (double-spaced) that would convince the class of something from the Odyssey.  It could be a comparison between two things, a question you have, a problem you notice, or an argument that you want to convince someone about. For instance, to take an idea from one of our class members, “Homer had a dysfunctional view of fathers, and we see that through his depiction of father-son relationships in the Odyssey.”  You then could bring evidence from the relationships between Telemachos and Odysseus, Nestor and his son, Odysseus and Laertes, etc.  (I’m not saying this is a good idea, but just how you would go about arguing it.)
  • Finally, read the Introduction to the Odyssey that Lattimore wrote before The Odyssey (it’s in your volume).  I think it could be very useful to you in your assignment, and could give you a lot of ideas if you’re concerned you don’t have a good one.  I rarely read introductions before I read a book for the first time; instead, they should be kept for reading after you finish.  I think you will appreciate it in light of finishing his translation.


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