English 149-2 - Spring, 2020

Topics in Literature

    Topic: Romance to Fantasy: Transforming Motifs from Homer to NK Jemisin

Class Information

Instructor: Werth, Tiffany
CRN: 84074
Time: TR 12:10-1:30
Location: 105 Wellman


    Course Description:

    ?Romance? or, alternately, ?Fantasy? is often used in literary and moral polemic to refer to kinds of stories conveying pleasure the critic thinks readers would do better to avoid. Castigated as dangerously seductive, shunned as escapist wish-fulfillment for a popular audience, the history of improbable narratives in English literature is complex. Spanning time from what has been called the ?fountainhead? of romance, Homer?s Odyssey, to contemporary megahit series like GRR Martin?s Game of Thrones (HBO), and Nebula-winning author NK Jemisin, this course charts the multiple, protean transformations and enduring appeal of fictitious narratives whose stories deny mimetic reality and range the limits of what Sir Philip Sidney called the ?zodiac of wit.? Enchanted weapons, monsters, giants, threatened?and threatening?women, deadly gardens, capricious seas, metamorphosis, travels to far flung shores, strange adventures, tourneys of combat and victory, the love of divers wandering princes and knights-errant will be the motifs we trace across centuries. Crossing geographical, genre, and species borders, the ?romance? serves as a touchstone for larger questions of literary and cultural theory. To this end, this course will explore various definitions of ?romance? and ?fantasy? to conceptualize broader problems of genre, reception, media, and the ramifications of imaginative literature. How do attitudes towards romance or fantasy register cultural mores regarding the marvelous and supernatural or to readerly pleasure? How does its imagined world project and mirror its historical moment even as it engages in an archetypal repertoire of narrative motifs?


    Course Requirements:

    Top Hat Course Engagement (Total 15%)
    Seminar Attendance 5%
    Reading ?fan? blog, weekly post of @150-200 words 10%
    Review of one critical, secondary reading (including
    1-page review posted for class on the model of They Say, I Say) 10%
    First Essay close reading exercise (3-4 pp / no secondary research) 20%
    Research proposal and annotated bibliography (4-5 sources) 5%
    Research essay (10-12 pp. including revision and mandatory peer editing
    workshop participation at 5%) 35%
    Final Exam: History of an Idea 15%


    Spenser, Edmund, The Faerie Queene. Book Three.
    Homer, Odyssey
    Wroth, Mary, The Urania
    Lewis, C.S., The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    LeGuin, Ursula, A Wizard of EarthSea
    Jemisin, N.K., The Fifth Season