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Topics in Romance: Pulp Fictions

ENGL 222.910

This course turns the traditional corpus of romance on its head: rather than focusing on the more well-known literary classics of the genre from the likes of Sir Thomas Malory and Jane Austen, we will look to its low-brow or “popular” iterations in literature and film, from the bob-and-wheel Middle English romances parodied by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales to the 18th-century sensation novel and contemporary Harlequin romances. Eminently readable, often salacious, and certainly never dull, these “pulp fictions” reveal a complex aesthetic world beneath the seemingly simple surface of popular narrative. We will trace the development of the genre from the medieval period to the present day, exploring issues of gender, readership, and the relationship between high- and low-brow literary culture. Texts may include: Sir Gowther and The King of Tars, Elizabethan popular drama, Victorian penny-dreadfuls, Lady Audley's Secret, The Big Sleep, The Flame and the Flower, and “Pulp Fiction.” Course requirements include occasional brief writing assignments, a longer mid-term paper, and a final research project.