English 180R

The Romance

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2018 Turner, James Grantham
MW 5-6:30 106 Dwinelle

Book List

Shakespeare, William: The Tempest; Shakespeare, William: The Winter's Tale; Sidney, Philip: Arcadia; Spenser, Edmund: Faerie Queene Book 1


Everybody thinks they know what “romance” is, but in fact the term is controversial and difficult to define. Does it mean escapist fiction with monsters and enchanters, entertaining but unbelievable? (What makes fiction believable, anyway?) Or a novel that fails because it is too sentimental and the ending too happy? Or a profound allegory of questing for the ultimate truth? Literary theory has expanded the definition of Romance, but it is still a contested and nebulous concept. This course will select and scrutinize a few key examples of “romances” from ancient Greece and Renaissance England. Chivalric-allegorical poetic romance is represented by Book One of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, neoclassical prose romance by Sidney’s Arcadia. Shakespeare’s magical last plays complete the list: The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale, plus parts of Pericles (only some of which is by Shakespeare). We will study these three plays in relation to the earlier prose fiction that Shakespeare adapted for the stage, comparing those sources carefully with the poetic drama. Selected prose fiction from the ancient Mediterranean – works less well known than Homer’s Odyssey but still influential and fascinating – will be available in modern translations, downloadable from bCourses. In the last quarter of the semester students will be asked to pick, and present, one work (from any period) that typifies exactly what they think “romance” means in literature. The Pilgrim’s Progress? Joseph Andrews? Wuthering Heights? The Blithedale Romance? Ulysses? The Lord of the Rings? Fifty Shades of Grey? – the choice will be yours.

Assignments will be paced regularly throughout the semester, and graded as follows. A first short paper in the form of a book review (10%); two quizzes with critical mini-essays on each passage (15% each); one longer paper on a Renaissance selection (25%); class participation and oral presentation (5%); a final examination essay (30%).

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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