After the medieval legends of King Arthur, and before modern fantasy novels and role-playing games, lies Spenser’s epic poem, The Faerie Queene. FQ — written by a contemporary of Shakespeare’s — weaves together quests, moral allegory, political argument, apocalyptic vision, gender play and comedy into a sequence of multi-layered stories loosely connected by the youthful Arthur’s search for the Faerie Queene. Each of its major characters seeks to complete a series of tasks and ordeals linked to one of the qualities a perfect man should have. At least, that’s the job the poet initially sets out to do ….
Each week, we will storyboard the action of the poem, visualizing the arcs of characters and narrative and mapping the spaces through which they progress. Alongside our reading in FQ, we will pay attention to its prehistory in medieval chivalric romance; its historical context, in an England struggling to found an empire and build a national identity; and its afterlives, in fantasy genres and modern allegory.
Work for the class will involve short written and oral research presentations; analytic writing; and a modest amount of creative work.