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ENGLISH 5FA: The Romance and its Readers

What does it mean for a text to be "realistic" or "unrealistic"? Why does it feel natural to us, as readers, to evaluate a book based on its ability to represent "reality"? Then again, why attempt to reproduce the real when you could simply put the book down and walk outside? In this course, we will consider these questions through the lens of "the romance." Though extremely variable across time, the romance emerges time and again as the genre of the unreal or decidedly fictional. Here are the books, we are told, that lead to fantasy and self-delusion. Reexamining such judgments, we will read a selection of "romances" - ranging from saints' lives to lesbian pulp fiction and the contemporary romance novel - while also devoting attention to the romance-reader (as a supposedly deluded and ineffectual participant in reality) to explore the development of the novel as a category and to trouble our understandings of "real" and "unreal" modes of experience and representation. How has the roma more »
What does it mean for a text to be "realistic" or "unrealistic"? Why does it feel natural to us, as readers, to evaluate a book based on its ability to represent "reality"? Then again, why attempt to reproduce the real when you could simply put the book down and walk outside? In this course, we will consider these questions through the lens of "the romance." Though extremely variable across time, the romance emerges time and again as the genre of the unreal or decidedly fictional. Here are the books, we are told, that lead to fantasy and self-delusion. Reexamining such judgments, we will read a selection of "romances" - ranging from saints' lives to lesbian pulp fiction and the contemporary romance novel - while also devoting attention to the romance-reader (as a supposedly deluded and ineffectual participant in reality) to explore the development of the novel as a category and to trouble our understandings of "real" and "unreal" modes of experience and representation. How has the romance historically been used to reject, distort, or transform reality? What gender - or other - biases inform the perennial devaluation of the romance as escapist fluff? What might it mean? What insights into literary history and politics emerge? if we take the romance and its readers seriously? (Note: This Writing-Intensive Seminar in English (WISE) course fulfills WIM for English majors. Non-majors are welcome, space permitting. For enrollment permission contact farrahm@stanford.edu.)
Terms: Spr | Units: 5
Instructors: Pitts, V. (PI)
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