Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

Course No:  350:503
Index # - 27990
Distribution Requirement:  A1, A3
Tuesday - 1:10 p.m.
MU 207


Sarah Novacich
Abigail Zitin

This course explores the genre of romance in two discontinuous periods in English literature: the late medieval and the eighteenth century. It will therefore serve different purposes for different students; it is intended to be of interest to specialists in either period, as well as to non-specialists who are interested in thinking about the polymorphism of romance as a concept and about the idea of genre itself. By analyzing generic features of romance that emerge and disappear across the span of centuries we treat, we will approach the question of how genres transform—and persist—under historical pressure, and specifically how romance as a literary mode defines itself in relation to narrative time and historical reality. The generic and formal questions are manifold, given how romance appears in multiple media (manuscript, print, film, television), takes shape both in prose and in verse, and cuts across high and low, elite and popular culture. Guiding our consideration of the relation of form to content are questions of closure: how do episodic structures associated with some versions of romance comport with bounded structures like the conjugal couple, the family, or even the nation? What are the relationships among the episodic, iterability, interchangeability, memory, and parody? Genealogy will be a central theme, and with it, gender. How do romances in these different historical moments represent masculinity and femininity? What do the formal and generic features of literary romance have to do with that aspect of its content we call romantic love? We will read criticism and theory by authors such as Erich Auerbach, Fredric Jameson, Helen Cooper, Janice Radway, Michael McKeon, Northrop Frye, Patricia Parker, and Niklas Luhmann. Primary texts include work by Chaucer, Chrétien de Troyes, the Gawain-Poet, Samuel Richardson, Charlotte Lennox, and Frances Burney, as well as 18th-century amatory fiction and anonymous Middle English romances. We also will make brief (and generically apposite) detours into adjacent periods to consider other permutations of romance and the romantic, though without seeking to trace a continuous line.

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