Gender, Sexuality, and Sovereignty in Romance
This course will examine the ways in which gendered identities, sexual desire, and political authority work as expressions of and analogues for one another in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century romance. We will consider a number of early modern English authors (Spenser, Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Wroth, Cavendish, Milton, and Behn) in the context of their classical and medieval precursors (possible figures include Virgil, Achilles Taitus, Chretien de Troyes, Marie de France, and John Gower, among others) and their continental contemporaries (Ariosto and Cervantes). Of particular concern will be questions about the relation between gender and genre: How does romantic challenge or reinforce conventional gender roles? How does the author’s gender inflect our understanding of both that particular text and romance conventions as such? What do Renaissance adaptations of romance as drama, science fiction, and travel narrative tell us about the relation between historical change and generic form? And, finally, how does the critical impulse to set generic boundaries complement or conflict with the attempt to study “women’s writing” as an aesthetic and historical category? A series of short writing and research assignments will culminate in a final 15+ page research paper.