E s379M • Romantic Legends-- England
Restricted to participants in the Oxford Summer Program
Robin Hood; Joan of Arc; Lancelot, Guinevere, and King Arthur: we imagine that these have been important literary characters ever since their exploits were chronicled by the monks, bards, and balladeers of their own times. Yet in truth these characters are mainly legendary. They really only assumed their now-familiar forms in the nineteenth century -the same century that bequeathed to us our popular idea of the poets of olden days.
In this course we will read some of the works of British Romantic literature, broadly construed, that did the most to invent such cherished traditions. These Romantic works, it turns out, are strangely modern. They present us with a multimedia experience that transports us into antique historical settings while engaging with concerns of the nineteenth century and of our own day. The name these works give to this experience is "poetry", and this course will serve the uninitiated as an excellent introduction to poetry's unique qualities. We will read the early ballads and sonnets that set the tone for the Romance revival; Samuel Taylor Coleridge's tale of Gothic horror "Christabel" and Sir Walter Scott's chivalric romance "The Lay of the Music Minstrel"; philosophical blank verse poems by the Lake Poets, including William Wordsworth's epochal "Tintern Abbey"; and later Medieval visions from John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Christina Rossetti. We will read a novel seasoned with interpolated poems: Scott's Ivanhoe, the nineteenth-century's favorite story and the crucial modern account of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. We will also look at Jane Austen's parody of the Romantic gothic imagination in Northanger Abbey.
Students will write four short papers, and will go on several field trips to Medieval locales: to Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle, and perhaps also to Newstead Abbey, which both the Sheriff of Nottingham and the Romantic poet Lord Byron made their abode.
Students will write four short papers (50%)
Participation and attendance (50%)