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Exploring Middle English Romance

Class at Faculty of Arts |


OBJECTIVES "Romance" is a genre that, in popular understanding, provides an expression of the dominant secular social and cultural institutions of the High Middle Ages: the ethos of a warrior class bound by imperatives of chivalric conduct, the concept of "courtly" love and courtoisie in general. This is our modern horizon of expectations for the "romance" genre. But what was the horizon of expectations for the medieval readership? How it evolved? We will explore these questions, probing into the complex origins of "romance" and examining a range of texts, from the early birds through the classics of the genre to late reflections. On the way, we will see how the idea of "romance" becomes solidified enough to work as a template and a subtext for other narrative types: hagiography, history etc., as well as providing a firm and fruitful ground for parodies and ironic treatments of various kinds. Inevitably, we will also touch on the issues of the social horizons of the genre as well as those of gender. MATERIAL Middle English texts listed in the programme will be provided in the original and in Modern English translation. A range of secondary texts, covering the larger issues connected with romance, will be made available in the Moodle. PRELIMINARY PROGRAMME

1) Introduction: themes, approaches, procedure

2) thematic characteristics of romance; romance in English - Ywain and Gawain / Chrétien de Troyes: Yvain (selection) - Sir Perceval of Galles

3) pre- to post-romance: evolution of the genre and late reflections - Old English Apollonius of Tyre (selection) - John Gower: eighth book of Confessio Amantis (selection) - William Shakespeare: Pericles

4) romance and hagiography - The Liflade ant te Passiun of Seinte Juliene (selection)

5) romance and history - the story of Havelok in Geoffrey Gaimar: L´Estoire des Engleis (in English)

6) subversions of romance - Geoffrey Chaucer: "The Merchant's Tale", The Canterbury Tales

7) Conclusions PROCEDURE AND ASSESSMENT Students are expected to give one presentation and submit a paper of 1,000 words for a credit. An essay of 5,000 words should be submitted as a graded paper. Active participation is of the essence. The seminar will combine Moodle forum with class sessions. To make the discussion of the texts more efficient, questions designed to open the debate will be posted in the forum and students will be asked to post their initial responses. The class session will expand on this, allowing all participants to interrogate, compare and combine their individual insights and conclusions. Presentations on secondary literature should be handed in as critical summaries, to be posted in the Moodle. Further details will be discussed during the first introductory session. Please watch for updated information in the course account on Moodle.

Study programmes