Late medieval and early modern British literature and culture; war studies; theories of nation and empire; transnational approaches to literary studies; poetics.
‘Fighting Words: Chivalry, Bedroom, Battlefield.’ University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2018.
This course introduces students to medieval literature and society through a focus on the rise and fall of one of the central ideologies of the Middle Ages: chivalry. Focusing on texts from the twelfth to fourteenth century including Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, romances of Chrétien de Troyes, the Lais of Marie de France, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, we will examine the role of chivalry and its associated cultures of war and conflict. Questions that we will discuss include: Why was the Christian knight such an important figure for medieval society? What ideas about masculinity, sexuality, class, and race are embedded within this figure? How does literature represent war and what cultural fantasies does it enable about nationalism, race, and belonging—and how do these ideas continue to resonate today?
This course will provide students with a working knowledge of Middle English (no prior experience required) and introduce them to the major historical and political debates of medieval literature, as well as their continuing relevance today.
‘The Fates and the Furious: The Trojan War from Homer to the Present.’ University of Pennsylvania, Spring 2017.
The wrath of Achilles and the deeds of the Trojan War have been sources of inspiration for poets and artists since at least the time of Homer’s Iliad (c. 760 – 710 BC). This course will begin with Homer’s epic, the single most important source for representations of the war, before launching on an itinerary that takes in some of the most important responses to the war written in English. These will include Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385), William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (1602), Derek Walcott’s Omeros (1990), and Alice Oswald’s Memorial (2011). With each text, we will investigate how exactly the story of Troy is written into the author’s own time and place, what strategies each author deploys to represent the valiance and horror of warfare, and how elements of Homer’s story withdraw and return across time. The central questions we will ask include: how do you represent the unrepresentable violence of war? How do these strategies change over time? Why has the Trojan War remained such an enduring topic? Given the broad scope of our course, no previous experience with any of the material is required.