Escape/No Escape: The World of Romance and the Pastoral
At first blush nothing seems more an escape from daily reality than the worlds of Romance and the Pastoral: idealized knights and their ladies battle dragons, giants, and sorcerers as happy shepherds pipe in idyllic landscapes of desire. Indeed, while Nathaniel Hawthorne praised Romance as a genre that can "mingle the Marvelous as an evanescent flower" he went on to complain that "it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart." In this course we will look at escape both as a generic trait of Romance and Pastoral and as a persistent theme in the works we study. Beginning with a brief survey of classical texts and moving on to an examination of central works in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, we will interrogate the accusation of"escapism" while noting the recurring themes of imprisonment, enchantment, and ineluctable conflict in such works as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Spenser's The Fairy Queen, and Milton's Lycidas.