English 170

Literature and the Arts: Medievalism and Art

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2011 Thornbury, Emily V.
Thornbury, Emily
MWF 11-12 88 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

Adams, H.: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; Alexander, M.: Medievalism; Morris, W.: News from Nowhere and Other Writings; Roe, D.: The Pre-Raphaelites: From Rossetti to Ruskin; Scott, W.: Ivanhoe; Tennyson, A.: Idylls of the King; Walpole, H.: The Castle of Otranto

Recommended: Lewis, M.: The Gothic Revival; Prettejohn, E.: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites


Loved, hated, imitated, and mocked (sometimes by the same people), the medieval-inspired style of the Gothic Revival was inescapable in Britain and America during the nineteenth century, and its legacy is still visible today. In this class, we will trace the turn to the "medieval" in painting, architecture, and literature from 1760 to 1914--a period which witnessed the transformation of both landscape and society with the rise of mechanized industry. For many of the people living through these changes, the Middle Ages came to represent a variety of conflicting ideals in the relationship of humans to power, work, beauty, and the divine.

As we examine a range of novels, poems, paintings, buildings, and designs from the Gothic Revival, we will consider central questions about the meaning of style: the moral and personal values it could convey, and the ways ideology and aesthetics could be conjoined. We will also think about the practical contexts of medievalism by studying the consumption of art in the nineteenth century and the vision of the private home as a work of art. Good and bad taste, the definition of kitsch, the virtue of labor, and the value of historical consciousness will all play parts in our quest to understand the phenomenon of the Gothic Revival and the modern world it helped to shape.

This course may satisfy the pre-1800 requirement for the English major by arrangement with the instructor.

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