Fulfills Distributional Course in Arts & Letters (for students admitted before Fall 2006)
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the narrative genre that produced the most pleasure and had the most powerful ethical and political effects was the Romance. Clerks, Kings, Queens and the nobility read romances avidly. And, in England, when the urban reading classes emerged, they created a demand for Middle English Romances. This summer we will read about the exciting adventures of knights and ladies and discover the incredible diversity of the “matter,” form and effect of medieval and early modern romances. We will read about the miraculous births of Alexander the Great and of King Arthur. We will read about Gawain’s wild encounter with a Greene Knight. We will encounter Ovid’s Orpheus transformed into a British King. We will traverse the wild and uncontained “English” spaces of Malory’s “The Quest for the Holy Grail” and of Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene.” We will even read a dramatic Shakespearean revision of a Chaucerian romance. Together, we will arrive at an understanding of the genre of Romance so that we may explain its incredible appeal to readers across the centuries.