English 166

Special Topics: Games of Thrones, Medieval to Modern


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Summer 2018 Strub, Spencer
TuWTh 10-12 note new location: 240 Mulford

Book List

Beowulf, trans. Heaney (FSG); Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Armitage; The Norton Shakespeare Histories, 3rd edition (Norton); Martin, George R. R.: A Game of Thrones; de France, Marie: Lais, trans. Waters (Broadview)

Other Readings and Media

Note: Please buy these specific editions of Beowulf, Sir Gawain, and Lais. We have ordered The Norton Shakespeare Histories, 3rd edition (ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al), ISBN: 978-0-393-93859-3. If you already own a complete Shakespeare (e.g., The Riverside, The Pelican, other and/or older editions of The Norton Shakespeare), you are welcome to use it for this course. Good single-play editions—Signet, Folger, Arden, Oxford World Classics, Pelican—also work.

Description

This course will show how Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire draw on a long literary-historical legacy, emphasizing the preoccupations that have made their way from medieval and Renaissance writers into modernity: namely, issues of gender, "otherness," kingship and tyranny, and political division and civil war. Throughout the course, we will ask why writers from Shakespeare to George R. R. Martin invent fantasies about the past to tell stories about the present.

We begin by exploring some themes and narrative topoi that, while essential to modern fantasy, actually emerge from medieval imaginative writing. The issues of honor, love, leadership, power, and violence at the center of A Song of Ice and Fire are anticipated by epics and romances written centuries earlier. (So are the dragons.) We then turn to Shakespeare's "Henriad," four plays which—like Game of Thrones—tell the story for their present by reimagining the medieval past. In Shakespeare, we will witness drunken revelry, bloody battles, and the evolution of a prince into a king. We will also see how political upheaval upends tradition and accepted values—a challenge that our own moment continues to confront.

We finish with the Game of Thrones phenomenon itself. We'll compare the first novel with the early episodes of the TV series, and consider the conversation and critiques that the show in particular has elicited. In addition to two literary-critical essays, you will have an opportunity to try your hand at writing your own "take" on Game of Thrones.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for UC Berkeley English majors.

This course will be taught in Session C, from June 19 to August 9.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

spring, 2020

166/2

Special Topics: The Literature & Art of Incarceration

166/3

Special Topics: Moby Dick

166/4

Special Topics: Colossi of PoMo

166/5

Special Topics: American Humor: Books & Film

166/6

Special Topics: Art of Writing: Grant Writing, Food Writing, Food Justice

166/7

Special Topics: Arthurian Romance Tradition

fall, 2019

166/1

Special Topics: Getting Global: Literature & Film of an Expanding & Unequal World

166/2

Special Topics: Literature in the Century of Film

166/3

Special Topics: Writing as Social Practice

166/4

Special Topics: Literatures of the Asian Diaspora in America

166/7

Special Topics: Charles Dickens

166/8

Special Topics: Green Thought in a Green Shade

166/9

Special Topics: New Orleans

166/11

Special Topics: The Works of Vladimir Nabokov

Naiman, Eric
spring, 2019

166/1

Special Topics: Gothic

166/2

Special Topics: Marxism and Literature

166/4

Special Topics: Poetry and Prose of Race and Social Class

166/5

Special Topics: Asian American Literature - World, Nation, Locality

166/6

Special Topics: Realism, Then and Now

166/7

Special Topics: Anton Chekhov

Muza, Anna
fall, 2018

166/2

Special Topics: Alfred Hitchcock

166/3

Special Topics: Journeys: British World-Building, c. 700-1700

166/4

Special Topics: "this morning's minion": Sonic Mysticism in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson

166/5

Special Topics

spring, 2018

166/1

Special Topics: Comedy & Violence

166/2

Special Topics: Romantic Science

166/3

Special Topics: Classical & Renaissance Drama

166/4

Special Topics: Marxism & Literature

166/5

Special Topics: Emily Dickinson

166/6

Special Topics: Speculative Fiction

summer, 2018

166/1

Special Topics: Speculative Fictions, Possible Futures

fall, 2017

166/3

Special Topics: Black Science Fiction

166/4

Special Topics: Writing Poetry and Nonfiction, Writing as Social Practice

spring, 2017

166/1

Special Topics: Marxism and Literature

166/2

Special Topics: Studies in Literature and Environment (Shelter and Weather)

166/3

Special Topics: Slavery and Conspiracy

166/4

Special Topics: Literature in the Century of Film

166/5

Special Topics: Modern Irish Literature


Back to Semester List