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 may include Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, selections from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Malory's Morte D'Arthur, More's Utopia, assorted sonnets by Spenser and Donne, a play by Shakespeare and Milton's Paradise Lost.