English 100

The Seminar on Criticism: Romance as Colonial History

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2022 Childers, Joel
MW 11-12:30 Wheeler 301


This course is a study in the history of romance as a mode, genre, and concept from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on the period to which romance eventually lent its name: Romanticism. We will attend closely to the formal and thematic characteristics of romance in its initial phases, including its origins as a form of vernacular storytelling, as well as the extent to which those characteristics are thought to shape innovative poetry and prose fiction of the early modern period and beyond. This course will also pay special attention to the political contexts in which romance develops and to which it imaginatively responds; we will ask what role romance plays in the formation of ideologies of empire, race, and religious otherness, both within Europe and between Europe and the Middle East. A major focus in this regard will be on histories of (settler) colonialism. 

As a seminar in criticism, this course will also use romance to broadly trace developments in English literary criticism, from its origins as an institutional practice, to major developments in twentieth and twenty-first century theory, including genre theory, Marxism, New Historicism, queer theory, and post- and settler colonial theory. 

Requirements for this course include leading class discussion and two essays (5-7 pp and 8-10 pp).

The following is a list of potential primary texts; note those with asterisks will be abridged: 

Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart 

*Wace, Roman de Brut

Anon., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 

*Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso* 

Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme Liberata 

Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote 

Keats, selected poems 

Percy Shelley, selected poems

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage 

*Herman Melville, Mardi

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