English 149-1 - Spring, 2023

Topics in Literature

Topic: Romance to Fantasy: Other Worlding from Homer to NK Jemisin

Class Information

Instructor: Werth, Tiffany Jo
CRN: 42261
Time: TR 3:10-4:30pm
Location: 125 Olson
GE Areas: Writing Experience


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 recent megahit series like GRR Martin?s Game of Thrones (HBO), and Nebula-award 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 or speculative fiction. 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 25%)
Reading fan blog, weekly post of @150-200 words 10%
Class Engagement, questions, and polls via Top Hat 15%
First Essay close reading exercise (3-4 pp / no secondary research) 20%
Research essay (8-10 pp. including revision and mandatory peer editing
workshop participation at 5%) 35%
Final Exam: History of an Idea 20%


The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
The Countess of Montgomery's Urania (Abridged). , Lady Mary Wroth
Homer?s Odyssey. Trans. Fitzgerald. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Homer
The Faerie Queene. Books Three and Four. , Edmund Spenser
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Top Hat Response System. ISBN 9780986615108