HENKF2102U English - Free topic B: Literary Romance: Genre and Style

Volume 2020/2021


Owing to its different meanings, a great deal of different material can be fairly construed as “literary romance”: Arthurian material, stories and poems about the world of fairy, Gothic romances, drama characterized by a romantic mood, historical novels, and so on.


Interestingly, English literature exhibits a tendency to return to the formulas of romance, time and time again, so that, in one strand, the history of English literature is constituted by different periods of romance.

This interdisciplinary module consists of two courses which address literary romance from two different perspectives.


Literary Romance Across the Ages

Starting out with the literary romance from the medieval period – Folie Tristan (The Madness of Tristan), Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde – this course makes its way through the history of the other “great tradition” in English literature. What is literary romance? Why does romance resurface is every age of English literature. What are we to make of its apparently contradictory politics? What is the point of a literary form which seems to turn its back on socio-economic reality and the criterion of “relevance”? These and a whole range of further questions about the genre will structure the enquiry featured in this course.


The Language of Literary Romance

This course addresses linguistic features of this literary tradition. Students will be introduced to theory and methodology from various branches of stylistics (the linguistic study of literature) applied to prose and poetry within the tradition of literary romance so as to explore not just how writers used language for aesthetic and expressive purposes but also what the role of language as such was. Moreover, we will explore aspects of the history of the English language with a view of understanding the importance of the tension between Germanic (more specifically, Anglo-Saxon and Norse) and Norman French vocabularies in connection with language attitudes within literary romance.


  • Excerpt from Folie Tristan (The Madness of Tristan)
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
  • Thomas Malory, excerpts from Mort Darthur
  • Edmund Spenser, Book I, The Faerie Queene
  • Phillip Sidney, Book, I, Arcadia
  • William Shakespeare, Pericles
  • A selection of the poetry of S. T. Coleridge
  • Walter Scott, Waverly
  • George McDonald, Fairytales
  • A selection of the poetry of William Morris, Algernon Swinburne, Alfred Tennyson, including Arthurian poetry by all three.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
  • Ursula K Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
  • Northrop Frye, The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
  • The Language of Literary Romance (compendium)
Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 9th 2021
• 1 minor portfolio assignment (to be submitted in early April) (5-7 pages; weighted 25%)
• 1 minor portfolio assignment (to be submitted in early May) (5-7 pages; weighted 25%)
• 1 major portfolio assignment (10-12 pages; weighted 50%) (to be submitted at the end of the module)
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment