Literature and History

L480 — Spring 2020

Penelope Anderson
Days and Times
2:30-3:45 MW
Course Description

TOPIC: “Telling Tales out of History”


A cliché asserts that “history is written by the victors” – but what if we focus on the ways we tell stories, and on writers who consciously set out to tell the other side?  For this seminar, we will begin with pairs of texts – one a familiar story, one a revision – and conclude with two historical novels read alongside different forms of historical evidence.  Along the way, we will think about questions such as how the form of a text shapes our understanding, whether it matters who is speaking, and what truth might look like in these contexts.  


Reading will include Ovid’s Metamorphoses and contemporary queer poet Kate Tempest’s Hold Your Own; Homer’s Odyssey (in a new feminist translation) and Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad; William Shakespeare’s Henriad and Rona Munro’s Scottish trilogy The James Plays; and the historical novels Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, and Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, both paired with historical documents.  Assignments will include short papers, presentations, and a final research project on a topic of your own choosing.​