Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Medieval Romance

ENGL 715.401
instructor(s):

Our small, nerdy band of devotees will consider many and various manifestations of medieval romance. Topics may be adjusted to fit the interests of enrollees. These might include: La Chanson de Roland as co-Ur text of English tradition (French origins to set besides the Anglo-Saxonism of Beowulf); the ways in which this epical Anglo-Norman text exfoliates into various romance versions, including the Middle English Sultan of Babylon; Geoffrey of Monmouth and the origins of the Brut tradition; genealogical rolls (such as the one recently acquired by Penn, and the larger one in the Free Library); Malory’s Morte Darthur, as printed by William Caxton in 1485 and as discovered at Winchester in manuscript form in 1934; the Malory-like tastes and romance enthusiasms of Yorkshireman Robert Thornton (fl. 1418-56), copyist of Lincoln Cathedral MS 91 (Alliterative Morte Arthure, Sir Percevale of Galles (both unique), Sir Degrevant, etc) and of BL Add. 31042 (the Sege of Melayne, unique, Rowland and Otuel). The Auchinleck MS will be considered as a compilation of medieval romances, and as precocious evidence, or not, of a London book trade. The Percy folio, BL MS Add. 27879, copied in the mid seventeenth century, inspires the highly-influential Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). Further topics: the diabolical wish-child Sir Gowther in National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.3.1, his rape of nuns, and the cutting of this scene from British Library Royal MS 17.B.43; the outlaw poem Gamelyn, and its enigmatic appearance in so many Canterbury Tales manuscripts. Havelock the Dane: from Anglo-Norman origins to decapitation in Grimsby, 2006; the sea, the shore, and English nation building; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Walter Scott, and the ecological mysteries of green.

This seminar will be taught in Smörgåsbord fashion: many diverse dishes laid out, hoping that some inspire independent flights of research. Examination by one long essay, plus class reports.