This module explores the representations of a range of heroes and outlaws, both real and legendary, in literary and historical texts written in England from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. We will study tales of some of medieval England's most famous heroes outside of the Arthurian tradition, along with stories of Robin Hood and other outlaws, tracing the roots of the Robin Hood legend in earlier narratives. We will investigate how accounts of these heroes and outlaws developed across time, and how they took shape in different regions, languages, genres, and material forms. We will consider themes of identity, otherness, monstrosity, Englishness, violence, chivalry and justice, as we explore how accounts of England's heroes and outlaws blur the distinctions between these categories, testing the limits of the human and the law. Students will be expected to read Middle English texts in their original language. Medieval French and Latin sources will be made available in translation.
All of the texts you will be studying for Heroes and Outlaws will be provided for you in a module pack or are fully available online.
If you'd like to make a head start, then please do! I would firstly recommend brushing up on your Middle English language skills. Go over any Middle English texts that you've read already and note any words or grammatical structures that are tricky for you. Make a list and learn them; test yourself and expand your ME vocabulary. Having a strong grasp of Middle English language will do you the world of good.
Having brushed up on your Middle English, why not make a start on some of the texts we will be studying throughout the semester:
- Havelok the Dane is our first heroic text and can be found here: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/salisbury-four-romances-of-england-havelok-the-dane.
- Bevis of Hampton is one our longer texts and so it might be useful to get this under your belt so that you don't have a heavy stack of reading halfway through the semester: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/salisbury-four-romances-of-england-bevis-of-hampton
- If you'd like to have an eye on Robin Hood as we're working through the 'heroes' part of the module, you could fast-forward to Anthony Munday's Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington: http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/downfall-of-robert-earle-of-huntington.
That should be enough to keep you going for now. I'd also recommend coming to our first seminar prepared with ideas and examples of what makes a hero. What heroes (female and male) have you encountered in literature so far in your studies? What heroes have you encountered in your everyday life? What defines them as a hero? Is hero a useful term?
I look forward to our first seminar!