We will explore two dissimilar strands that twine through early literature, one defined by plot, the other by theme. The story of the Trojan hero Troilus and his ill-fated love attracted the finest minds of a period whose division into two (Medieval and Renaissance) is increasingly recognized as artificial and permeable. As counterpoint to this story of members of the upper reaches of society, we will juxtapose a series of "morality plays," ranging from the original (the Fall of Man) through the Marlovian (Dr. Faustus).
This moral current will represent the more readily understandable and defensible literature, while the Troilus story will give us a chance to explore the much more anxiety-producing world of unreliable narrators, suspended judgments, and inconclusive ending (though we will see that at many points this distinction will not hold up).
By reading the two side by side, students will gain some insight into the differences in class and gender concerns that are inherent in each, as they develop an understanding of the complexity of a period often described as monolithic. Together we will explore the differences between prose narrative and verse drama, as well as the audiences for each.
Texts will include:
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