SoSe 16: HS-Medieval English Literatures: Troilus and Criseyde
Andrew James Johnston
Geoffrey Chaucer’s romance Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385) has been called the ‘first novel’ in the English language. And, indeed, there is something highly ambiguous about this tragic Trojan love ... read more
Geoffrey Chaucer’s romance Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385) has been called the ‘first novel’ in the English language. And, indeed, there is something highly ambiguous about this tragic Trojan love story. On the one hand, it is a thoroughly medieval text that treats its antiquity from a chivalric perspective appearing at times to be more foreign to modern readers than even the world of Homer itself. On the other hand, the text’s fascination with complex psychological and ethical problems is such as to defy the traditional stereotypes we tend to associate with medieval literature. To make things even more complicated, the romance frames its sophisticated probings into subjectivity with investigations into the relationship between history and narrative. In other words, even as Troilus and Criseyde depicts the most private emotions and the way they are engendered and develop, it does so within a self-consciously deployed setting that links the issue of subjectivity with the grand historical panorama of the Trojan War.
It is these many different layers of meaning in Troilus and Criseyde that this course seeks to unravel. Students are expected to have acquired the Norton Critical Edition (Stephen A. Barney (ed.), New York: W. W. Norton, 2006) of the romance and to have read the text before the semester starts. They will be given the opportunity to display their familiarity with the romance in a test which will take place in the third week of the semester.