Genres, Beginning to 1603: Medieval Romance
From the twelfth to the seventeenth century, the romance genre was the prominent form of storytelling in Western vernacular writing. Still influencing us today through genres such as the Western, the soap opera, superhero comics, and science fiction narratives like Star Wars, the romance is particularly adept at imagining identity, love, justice, and faith in a variety of unusual yet captivating ways. The story of King Arthur is one of the most popular romance subjects, and this course will explore the Arthurian legends, their main characters (Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, and Gawain), and the way these legends have been used to address various cultural needs, such as chivalry, patriotism, and social ideals, throughout time. In addition to reading Arthurian texts by Chrétien de Troyes and Thomas Malory, we will also look more generally at other romances, both medieval and Renaissance, by authors such as Torquato Tasso and Mary Wroth for their portrayals of gender roles, racial difference, and selfhood. Prerequisite: junior standing.