This course turns traditional romance on its head by reading low-brow, “popular” versions, from the bob-and-wheel Middle English romances parodied by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales to Tarantino’s ubiquitous Pulp Fiction. Eminently readable, often salacious, and certainly never dull, these “pulp fictions” reveal complex worlds beneath their seemingly simple or gritty exteriors. 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.
Sir Gowther and The King of Tars, Elizabethan popular ballads, Victorian penny-dreadfuls, Lady Audley's Secret and Pulp Fiction. The malleability of romance as a literary concept will also allow us to consider a variety of lesser-studied genres, including crime and mystery novels such as A Study in Scarlet and The Big Sleep, as well assci-fi and speculative fictions.
Students will have the chance to engage with these materials in formats both critical and creative, through reading responses, a Rare Books project, and a final paper.