No Time to Come Up With a Punny Title, I’m Teaching Medieval Romances on a New Campus Next Week

The work on the syllabus continues apace. I think I have the first half and the last couple of weeks planned. I still need to develop the major writing assignments and decide when and how I will do the smaller tasks. Then, I will go back over everything, decide that I have assigned too much, tell myself that it will be fine, say that I always do this in quarters, and ultimately leave everything mostly as I had it to begin with. The course marks a number of firsts for me:

  • First course at Antioch College! New group of students, small class size (Enrollment is at two right now!), beautiful campus, gorgeous little town, and a much shorter commute than last term.
  • First time teaching an upper-division course.  Also, did I mention it will be a small class? I am excited to see what it is like to teach a literature section to fewer than forty students.
  •  First time designing a topics course. I am trying to strike a good balance between survey/introduction to the period and genre, on the one hand, and intensive focus on the major themes, on the other. Plus, we will get to spend a majority of the term in Middle English.

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My plan is to use the following three texts and to supplement with additional readings from Chrétien, Chaucer, Gower, Malory, and a few of my favorite ME romances:

Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante, Ed., The Lais of Marie de France. Durham: The Labyrinth               Press, 1982.
Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, Ed., The Middle English Breton Lays. TEAMS Middle                      English Texts Series. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001.
Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation. NY: Norton, 2007.

I have taught from each of these before but only in survey courses. I used the Armitage translation once when I taught SGGK in the Brit Lit survey, and I think the students did well to pay attention to the Middle English in discussions and for writing assignments but to read the translation in order to cover the text more quickly. More frequently, I have turned to the lays (both those of Marie de France and those in the Middle English tradition) in the survey, but I am excited to read through the bulk of them with the students rather than simply picking up one or two.

I am still deciding what other romances to include. My short list includes The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame RagnelleHavelock the DaneSir IsumbrasAmis and Amiloun,  AthelstonFloris and Blancheflour, and Octavian. And I still have to figure out what to do with regards to the secondary literature. Thankfully, there are so many good medieval romance resources and sample syllabi online that the biggest problem is not getting overly-ambitious with the reading schedule. The final wrinkle that I hope to throw into the seminar is an interlude sometime just after midterms when I have invited a friend to come talk with the class about the legacy of medieval romance in Victorian literature. He has suggested a lot of possibilities for us to do together – all of them very exciting.

It will be a brisk ten weeks, and I still have a lot of tinkering to do before Wednesday, but it is a refreshing change of pace to be planning a course like this.

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