English 240 - Winter, 2019

Medieval Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Waters, Claire
CRN: 54936
Time: R 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Genre


    This course will offer an introduction to the enormously influential genre of medieval romance, with an eye to its many afterlives in contemporary mass culture. Our focus will be on the centrality of retelling to this genre (in both its medieval origins and its modern offshoots); we will focus on characters (particularly Sir Gawain) and narratives (the story of the Grail; “beautiful unknown” and “fairy beloved” tales) that enticed authors to revisit them over and over. We will consider particularly the role of “enchantment” and affect in those retellings and their engagement with familiarity and strangeness, working with critics like Jane Bennett, Rita Felski, Patricia Ingham, and Helen Cooper, as well as with fan studies—fan fiction being a modern counterpart of the medieval desire to retell in ever-better forms—to consider the affiliations formed and the affective engagements elicited (or resisted) by transforming “old” works into new ones.

    Works in Old French will be read in translation; those in Middle English (many available in TEAMS online editions) will have substantial glosses or facing-page translations, and we will practice working with the language in seminar. No previous knowledge of Middle English is expected or needed.


    Class participation and short weekly postings, 30%; in-class presentation and 3-4 page accompanying writing assignment, 20%; 15-page final paper, 50%


    Arthurian Romances, Chretien de Troyes
    Lais, Marie de France
    Gawain Romances, Thomas Hahn, ed. (TEAMS)
    Middle English Breton Lays , Eve Salisbury and Anne Laskaya, eds (TEAMS)
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Casey Finch, ed. and trans.
    The Tale of Sir Gareth, Thomas Malory
    Lybeaus Desconus, George Shuffelton, ed. (TEAMS)
    Quest of the Holy Grail, Judith Shoaf, ed.
    Wife of Bath's Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer