The term " Middle Ages" first gained currency in the 17th century and has since had a powerful influence over our conception of the literary past. This course introduces students to three hundred years of English literature by examining the ways in which that literature mythologizes and historicizes. How do medieval and Renaissance writers interpret and reinterpret classical, heroic, and Christian themes? What idealized pasts, utopias, and dystopias do they imagine and to what purpose? What myths about gender, ethnicity, and nationality do they perpetuate and create? Finally, how do our myths of "medieval" and "Renaissance" determine how we read English literature?
Readings will include Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, selections from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Book of Margery Kempe, Malory's Morte D'Arthur, More's Utopia, Spenser's Faerie Queene, the poetry of John Donne, Marlowe's great play, Dr. Faustus, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and Milton's Paradise Lost.
Requirements: Participation, weekly responses, 2 short analytical papers, a midterm and final exam.