EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013
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EN 706 Medieval English Romance
Fall 2013
Monday 4:30-6:55 Stokes 301N

Robert Stanton, Stokes 385S
Office Hours: Wednesday 12-1
(617) 552-2235 stantoro@bc.edu

If you are reading this on paper, please use the web version, which will be more up-to-date:

Course Description

This course reads romances in English from 1240 to 1500 as nostalgic expressions of many desires: for a readable national past, an authorizing foundation myth, and a satisfying fantasy of gender relations, among other things. This was a time of intense multiculturalism: Saxon and Celtic traditions jostled with Norman and French literary models, and English literature re-emerged after long suppression following the Norman Conquest. The earliest English romances were not courtly, but aimed at the lower and lower-middle classes, who emulated (imitated/rivaled) the French romances of the upper classes. We will examine such questions as gender construction (women were both agents of and obstacles to a complex male desire), class irritation (the lower classes in England reading through courtly values), the desire for origins (hence the popularity of King Arthur and the early British), and the limits of the romance genre (which intersected with history, epic, saints' lives, and folktale). We will also consider the varying perspectives offered by mythography, psychoanalytic criticism, and orality theory.

Works to be read will include Sir Launfal, Sir Orfeo, The Tale of Gamelyn, Havelok the Dane, The Turk and Sir Gawain, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, Sir Eglamour, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gowther, Sir Isumbras, and Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas. All works will be read in Middle English, but no prior knowledge of it will be assumed.

Assignments (click on the links for more detail):

Response papers and replies 25%
Paper 1 (close reading) 15%
Paper 2 (short research paper) 15%
Paper 3 (longer research paper) 25%
Conference Presentation 10%
Discussion Leading/
Class Participation 10%

Required Text
Simon Armitage, trans., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (New York: Norton, 2008).

Most of our other texts will come from the wonderful series Middle English Texts, published by TEAMS and the Medieval Institute in Kalamazoo, MI. These texts are all available online, so you will not have to buy the whole pile to get the texts from various volumes. These are proper online editions, with good introductions, bibliography, and hyperlinked footnotes. When I assign one of these texts, I ask that you either print it out or bring a laptop, so that we can have it in front of us in class. The URL is:

See also the Course Bibliography.

Canvas Site
BC is in the process of switching its default course management software from Blackboard Vista to Canvas, and 2013/14 is the year that Canvas is being piloted and beta-tested. I've used it before and find it an improvement on BB; please bear with me and the IT crowd as we work to make it better. There you'll find pretty much everything you'll find on this syllabus and its links: the syllabus itself, the course bibliography, all the assignments. You'll also find PDFs of some assigned readings. Go there now and browse around, starting with "Syllabus" from the left banner. I think it's pretty easy to navigate - let me know what you think of it.

Tentative Schedule

Week 1 (September 9)
Intro/Admin./Reading Middle English
The Harvard Chaucer site has excellent pages on Middle English grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. (The link takes you to the pronunciation page; click on "vocabulary" and "grammar" at the top left for the other pages). We will go over these during class and do some reading aloud.

Week 2 (September 16)
Backgrounds, Source Study, Literary Development
Marie de France, Lanval [here are some excerpts, with audio files, in the original Old French]
Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, ed. Sir Launfal, in The Middle English Breton Lays (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995).
Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert, "Introduction," in The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, ed. Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert (Harlow: Longman, 2000), 1-38.
Northrop Frye, The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1976), 35-61.
Fredric Jameson, "Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre," New Literary History 7 (1975): 135-63.
Christine Chism, "Romance," in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 57-70.
Nicola McDonald, "A Polemical Introduction," in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England, ed. Nicola McDonald (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004), 1-21.
A.C. Spearing, "The Lanval Story," in The Medieval Poet as Voyeur: Looking and Listening in Medieval Love-Narratives (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993), 97-119.
Myra Stokes, "Lanval to Sir Launfal: A Story Becomes Popular," in Putter and Gilbert, 56-77.

ME winnen

Primary sources: Chelsea
Secondary sources: Caroline

Week 3 (September 23)
Myth and Mimesis
Sir Orfeo
Erich Auerbach, "The Knight Sets Forth," from Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946)
Derek Brewer, "Escape from the Mimetic Fallacy," in Studies in Medieval English Romances: Some New Approaches, ed. Derek Brewer (Cambridge and Wolfeboro, NH: D.S. Brewer, 1988), 1-10.
Patrizia Grimaldi, "Sir Orfeo as Celtic Folk-Hero, Christian Pilgrim, and Medieval King," in Allegory, Myth, and Symbol, ed. Morton W. Bloomfield, Harvard English Studies 9 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1981), 147-61.
Jeff Rider, "Receiving Orpheus in the Middle Ages: Allegorization, Remythification and Sir Orfeo," Papers on Language & Literature 24 (1988): 343-66.
A.C. Spearing, "Sir Orfeo: Madness and Gender," in Putter and Gilbert (see week 2 above), 258-272.
Frye, The Secular Scripture, 97-157 [on patterns of ‘descent’ and ‘ascent’]

Here's a cool web page about the Auchinleck manuscript, with digital facsimile
ME ympe-tre
MnE imp
ME nimen
MnE name

Primary Sources: Ashley
Secondary Sources: Eileen

Week 4 (September 30)
Paper 1 due
(300 word Canvas posts only)
Audience, Class, and Consciousness
The Tale of Gamelyn (899 lines)
John Scattergood, "The Tale of Gamelyn: The Noble Robber as Provincial Hero," in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1994), 159-194.
T.A. Shippey, "The Tale of Gamelyn: Class Warfare and the Embarrassments of Genre," in Putter and Gilbert.
Stephen Knight, "The Social Function of the Middle English Romances," in Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology and History, ed. David Aers (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), 99-122.

Week 5 (October 7)
Havelok, ll. 1-1445
Homi K. Bhabha, ed., "Introduction: Narrating the Nation," in Nation and Narration, ed. Bhabha (London and New York: Routledge, 1990), 1-7.
Thorlac Turville-Petre, "Havelok and the History of the Nation," in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge and Rochester: D.S. Brewer, 1994), 121-134.
Michael Faletra, "The Ends of Romance: Dreaming the Nation in the Middle English Havelok," Exemplaria 17 (2005): 347-380.
Dominique Battles, "Reconquering England for the English in Havelok the Dane," Chaucer Review 47 (2012): 187-205.
Diane Speed, "The Construction of the Nation in Medieval English Romance," in Meale, Readings, 135-157.

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

October 14: Columbus Day (no class)

Week 6 (October 21)
The Domestic and the Other
Havelok, ll. 1625-3002
The Turk and Sir Gawain (TEAMS text, 340 ll.)
Cohen, Of Giants, 159-166
Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979), 49-73.
Geraldine Heng, “The Romance of England: Richard Coer de Lyon, Saracens, Jews, and the Politics of Race and Nation,” in The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (New York: St. Martin’s, 2000), 135-171.
Jost, Jean E. "The Role of Violence in Aventure: 'The Ballad of King Arthur and the King of Cornwall' and 'The Turke and Gowin.’” Arthurian Interpretations 2.2 (1988), 47-57.

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

Week 7 (October 28)
The Monstrous
Sir Eglamour (TEAMS text, 1320 ll.)
The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle (Shepherd 243-267)
Cohen, Of Giants, 62-80.
A.K. Coomaraswamy, "On the Loathly Bride." Speculum 20 (1945), 391-404.
Robert Shenk, “The Liberation of the ‘Loathly Lady’ of Medieval Romance,” Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 2 (1981): 69-77.

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

Week 8 (November 4)
Paper 2 due
(300 word Canvas posts only)
Sir Gawain and Monstrous Sexuality
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Vantuono ed.)

Cohen, Of Giants, 142-152.
the following are on Canvas:
Carolyn Dinshaw, "A Kiss Is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolations in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Diacritics 24.2 (1994): 205-226.
David L. Boyd, "Sodomy, Misogyny, and Displacement: Occluding Queer Desire in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," Arthuriana 8 (1998): 77-113.

Week 9 (November 11)
Gawain Continued: Embodiment and The Chivalric Identity
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, cont’d

the following are on Canvas:
David Aers, Community, Gender, and Individual Identity: English Writing, 1360-1430 (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), 153-178.
Clare R. Kinney, “The (Dis)Embodied Hero and the Signs of Manhood in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages, ed. Clare A. Lees (Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P, 1994), 47-57.
Susan Crane, “Knights in Disguise: Identity and Incognito in Fourteenth-Century Chivalry,” in The Stranger in Medieval Society, ed. F.R.P. Akehurst and Stephanie Van d’Elden (Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P, 1997), 63-79.
Recommended: Thomas Hahn, “Gawain and Popular Chivalric Romance in Britain,” in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance, ed. Roberta Krueger (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), 218-234.
Recommended: Mary F. Godfrey, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: the Severed Head and the Body Politic,” Assays 8 (1995): 69-100.

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

Week 10 (November 18)
Rape, Class, and Redemption
Sir Gowther (TEAMS text, 757 ll.)

Cohen, Of Giants, 119-142
the following are on Canvas:
Joanne A. Charbonneau, "From Devil To Saint: Transformations In Sir Gowther," in The Matter Of Identity In Medieval Romance, ed. Phillipa Hardman(Woodbridge & Rochester, 2002), 21-28.
Alcuin Blamires, "The Twin Demons of Aristocratic Society in Sir Gowther," in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England, ed. Nicola McDonald (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004), 45-62.
Corinne Saunders, "'Symtyme the Fend': Questions of Rape in Sir Gowther." In M.J. Toswell and E.M. Tyler, eds., Studies in English Language and Literature: 'Doubt Wisely'
Recommended: Francine McGregor, "The Paternal Function In Sir Gowther," Essays In Medieval Studies 16 (1999): 67-78. Available online.
Recommended: Margaret Robson, "Animal Magic: Moral Regeneration In Sir Gowther,"Yearbook Of English Studies 22 (1992): 140-53.

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

Week 11 (November 25)
Chivalry and Spirituality: The Holy Grail
Malory, The Noble Tale of the Sangrail (on Canvas)

the following are on Canvas:
Glenys Witchard Goetinck, "The Quest for Origins," in The Grail: A Casebook, ed. Dhira Mahoney (New York and London: Garland, 2000), 117-147.
Dhira Mahoney, "The Truest and Holiest Tale: Malory's Transformation of La Queste del Saint Graal," in The Grail (see above), 379-396.

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

Week 12 (December 2)

Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

Week 13 (December 9)

Paper 3 due Monday December 16 at noon (via e-mail)

Date Day Details
Sep 9 Mon
Week 1 4:30pm to 6:55pm
Sep 15 Sun
Weekly Response Paper (Week 2)
(EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013)
due by 4pm
Sep 16 Mon
Week 2 4:30pm to 6pm
Sep 23 Mon
Weekly Response Paper (Week 3) due by 6am
Week 3 4:30pm to 7pm
Sep 30 Mon
Week 4 4:30pm to 7pm
Paper 1
(EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013)
due by 4:30pm
Oct 7 Mon
Week 5 4:30pm to 7pm
Nov 4 Mon
Paper 2
(EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013)
due by 4:30pm
Dec 9 Mon
Conference Presentation
(EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013)
due by 4:30pm
Dec 16 Mon
Paper 3
(EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013)
due by 12pm
Conference Presentation
Discussion Leading/Class Participation
(EN706012014F Medieval English Romance (Stanton) Fall 2013)

Discussion Leading/Class Participation
Paper 1
Paper 2
Paper 3
Weekly Response Paper (Week 2)