E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
This course introduces students planning to major in English to a variety of critical reading methods through a focus on the genre of romance from the medieval period to the twentieth century. In this course we will approach texts as verbal and formal artifacts, closely attending to their making from linguistic and poetic or literary devices: metaphor, simile, imagery, as well as the expectations set for them by their genre as "romance." We will also read these same texts as historical and historicizing documents, trying to determine the political, social, and cultural contexts in which they were written and received, as well as how that context may have changed over time. We will look to the ways these texts function as rhetorical objects, addressing and even constructing a particular kind of audience or reader for themselves. We will look at these texts as particular material artifacts as they span the divide between manuscript and print cultures. As such, we will look to the ways texts (manuscripts, rough drafts, fair copies) become books, objects of cultural and intellectual consumption. We will also study romance as a continuing development of a particular genre even as the works we read span different generic categories: lyric, narrative, and drama. Tracing the development of romance from its medieval aristocratic and clerical origins, through the "Romantic" period and into the modern era, we will note the changing definition of "romance" across literary history. Thus, we will seek to chart the transformation of the term and the genre it represents. What assumptions does the term "romance" invoke to readers of different historical moments? Simultaneously, we will also investigate the transformations wrought by romance. From the ennobling effects of love in medieval courtly fiction to the magical rebirth made possible in Renaissance drama to the psychological revelations of Browning's and Poe's narrators, romance, and the love it depicts, powerfully alters the world. We will look to this genre's ability to reveal and to express a sense of a fully conscious individuality as well as that individual's subjection to others.
The course seeks to develop skills necessary to the English major through extended study of a small number of primary texts, as well as work with secondary materials. We will emphasize critical analysis in our readings, discussions, and writing. Students will also be introduced to archival and secondary research in the Ransom Humanities Research Center and the PCL.
Four essays (ranging between 2-6 pages) 70%
Classroom work (attendance, preparation, participation, presentations, in-class writing exercises, etc.) 30%
Attendance is mandatory in this course. Absences will be excused for medical or religious reasons alone, and will require proper documentation. More than three unexcused absences will result in a final grade lowered by one full letter. More than five unexcused absences will result in course failure.
Chretien de Troyes, Lancelot or the Knight of the Cart
Shakespeare, selected Sonnets
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Samuel Coleridge, John Keats, Robert Browning, Edgar Allen Poe, selected poems
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire