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Classical Epic and Medieval Romance

ENGL 229.401


color:#0E0E0E">This course looks at a number of strands in the broad epic tradition: narratives of warfare, quest narratives (both geographical and spiritual), and the combination of the two in narratives of chivalry and love. We will start with Homer, reading good portions of the normal">Iliad and the Odyssey, and then see how Homeric themes are reprised in Virgil's narrative of travel, conquest, and empire, the Aeneid. From there we will move to one medieval epic of warfare, conquest, and empire, the Song of Roland, which emerges from the same kind of oral poetic culture that produced the ancient Homeric epics. In the last part of the course we will read some Arthurian romances, which take up certain themes familiar from epic, but place them in a new context: the medieval institution of chivalry, where the ancient warrior is replaced by the medieval knight, where the collective battle is replaced by the individual quest, and where the psychology of sexual desire is now foregrounded as a motivation for heroic self-realization.


color:#0E0E0E">Assignments will include short papers and may possibly include a final group research assignment (oral report panels and individual write-ups of the research project).

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major