English 150

Senior Seminar: Troy Ancient to Modern

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2007 Nolan, Maura
Nolan, Maura
MW 4-5:30 206 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

Homer: The Iliad; Virgil: The Aeneid; Boccaccio, G.: Filostrato; Chaucer, G.: Troilus and Criseyde; Henryson, R.: Testament of Cresseid; Shakespeare, W.: Troilus and Cressida; H. D.: Helen of Troy; Wood, M.: In Search of the Trojan War


This seminar focuses on one of the most enduring historical legends in human history, the story of Troy and its fall. We will begin with Homer?s Iliad and move on to Virgil?s Aeneid, exploring the epic representations of cities and their destruction that inspired later writers, dramatists, archaeologists and even filmmakers to imagine and construct stories about various characters living in the shadows of Troy or with the legacy of its fall. We will then move on to three of the many medieval versions of the story: Boccaccio?s Filostrato, Chaucer?s Troilus and Criseyde and Henryson?s Testament of Cresseid. These texts focus on two characters hardly mentioned by Homer?Troilus and Criseyde?and their doomed love relationship over the course of the war. We will then turn to Shakespeare?s very different vision of Cressida before moving on to the modernist poet H. D. and her version of the Trojan legends in Helen of Troy. To conclude the course, we will examine 19th, 20th, and 21st century attempts to find the historical Troy, beginning with Heinrich Schliemann?s claim in the late 19th century to have found its remains and ending with current excavations. We will ask what, if anything, these excavations have to do with the literary tradition of Troy, and indeed, what literature can contribute to history. Reading the legends of Troy is a way of examining a literary tradition from its inception to the present; we will question, investigate, and excavate the very idea of ?tradition? over the course of the semester, asking ourselves how and why literary ideas and stories come into being, and under what circumstances they might, like Troy, disappear.

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