English R1B

Reading and Composition: Rewriting Epic

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Spring 2022 Ripplinger, Michelle
TTh 5-6:30 204 Dwinelle

Book List

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Greenlaw, Lavinia: A Double Sorrow: A Version of Troilus and Criseyde; Headley , Maria Dahvana (trans.): Beowulf: A New Translation; Ishiguro, Kazuo: The Buried Giant; Ovid: Metamorphoses; Shakespeare, William: Troilus and Cressida; Wilson , Emily (trans.): The Odyssey

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings may include selections from Statius, Thebaid; the Old English "elegies"; Toni Morrison; Phillis Wheatley; and Danez Smith, as well as the 2021 film adaptation of The Green Knight.


“Bro!” So begins a recent translation of Beowulf. Not with a solemn “So.” or an exclamatory “Listen!”, but rather with a playful invitation to reconsider the epic from a feminist standpoint, as a “bro story.” In this course, we’ll take this invitation seriously, as we study classical epic and its reception from antiquity to the later Middle Ages. As we’ll discover, this literary history is not simply a story about the preservation of tradition; to the contrary, it long has been characterized by rewriting, revision, even antagonism. Just as Ovid tempers the objectivity of male-centered epic by including female-voiced complaints in his hexameter Metamorphoses, so, too, the medieval romance genre takes shape by reimagining epic from a different point of view. As we study this reception history, we also will place these ancient and medieval works in conversation with the rich tradition of Black classicisms, as well as with medievalisms in the present moment. We conclude by reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight alongside Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant.

While the medieval reception of classical epic will be our primary subject, the underlying object will be to grow as critical readers and to learn to write more clearly and persuasively about difficult and complex topics. This course will teach you how to pose analytical questions, develop complex arguments supported by evidence, and build research skills applicable to other college writing as well as writing outside the university. The course will consist of three assignments: a short paper of literary analysis, a more substantial research paper, and a final creative project. In this final creative project, you will have the opportunity to place this premodern history of ideas in conversation with the present, and to consider what potential it might hold for us now.

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