English R1B

Reading & Composition: Adventures of the Unheroic: A Hero’s Journey in Fourteenth-Century Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2012 Crosson, Chad Gregory
MWF 3-4 103 Wheeler

Book List

Booth, W.: The Craft of Research; Borroff, M.: The Gawain Poet: Complete Works; Esolen, A.: Inferno; Fitzgerald, R.: The Aeneid; Mandelbaum, A.: The Aeneid of Virgil

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader


Narrow escapes, displays of prowess, and confrontations that end in triumph tend to typify the heroic in popular culture, whether in action films or graphic novels.  Although some contributions to these genres may at times complicate this portrayal, one needs only to mention films like Die Hard or the Matrix to convey popular expectations of the hero.  The subject of this course is fourteenth-century poetry with its display of, as some have put it, the unheroic; that is, besides lacking depictions of heroic action, this poetry creates the image of a humbled and weakened man.  As we read the poetry from this period, we will consider this unheroic image in some of the following ways: Does this poetry depict an unheroic man, or is the heroic ideal significantly altered from classical literature?  How do we approach questions of morality in an “unheroic” literary milieu?

We will begin this discussion by looking at examples of the hero in classical literature before moving into late fourteenth-century English poetry.  These literary works will form the basis of your practice in critical reading, and they will also form the subject of your papers.  Although much of our class discussion will revolve around the books we are reading, a significant portion of the course will focus on writing and research.  You will compose a series of short reading response papers that will be developed into a ten-page research paper.  

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