Literature and Arts A-11. Arthurian Literature: Epic versus Romance




A permanent fault-line runs throughout Western literature, between epic and romance. Epic contests territory, while romance discovers the self. Epic focuses on charismatic leaders, represents the rise and fall of societies, and depicts war across a realistic geography. Romance focuses on the energetic young, represents trials of sexual desire ending either in marriage or adultery, and has a symbolic geography. Epic and romance critique each other, without resolving this inevitable conflict. This course focuses on brilliant examples of literature about King Arthur’s court, written between the 12th and the 15th centuries, with some reference to 19th-century English and American texts.