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Bad Romances: Gawain to Gaga

ENGL 4958.301
MW 1:45-3:14pm


This course examines a literary history of bad romances, from their medieval antecedents to their contemporary afterlives. Often considered the great literary genre of the Middle Ages, romance depicts erotic love, chivalric quests, and the unpredictability of adventure. Throughout this course, we speculate about the fall of romance, just as others theorize the rise of the novel. What is at stake in the decline of a premodern genre? Is romance declining after all? How do we understand the relationship of medieval romance to today’s literary fiction? The course begins with medieval romances such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale.” We then turn toward more recent bad romances, including Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red and Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt. The course investigates how the romance is racialized and gendered in poetry and music ranging from Danez Smith’s Homie to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” We will also discuss whether film adaptations, such as Carol and The Green Knight, are inherently bad. Other possible course readings and media include James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You? and Sam Levinson’s Euphoria.

This course is designed to familiarize students with research methods and current scholarship in the field of literary studies.


English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1700 (AEB7)
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 2 Difference and Diaspora (AEDD)
  • Sector 3 Medieval/Renaissance (AEMR)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
  • Medieval/Renaissance Concentration (AEMC)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes