EL 2077C: Presentation and Communication II
Professor Amie Parry

Time: Thursday 9:00-11:50
Place: A105
Office A218;extension 33215

Course Description:

This course provides a forum for learning to speak speculatively and analytically, while building vocabulary on a topic of great cultural significance. Class discussions will be in-depth, text-oriented, and will require students to apply critical thinking skills in spoken language. After taking this class, students should be able to speak more persuasively and effectively in an English-language environment. Skills covered will include preparing effective presentations (as last semester), but this semester we will also emphasize unprepared, spontaneous, and intelligent discussion in academic and professional contexts. The topic for this semester is the Arthurian legend in contemporary literary and visual cultures. The figures and themes of this legend are pervasive in Anglo-American cultures, past and present, so the class will deepen students・ understanding of many other texts taught in the English department. The underlying cultural meanings of the Arthurian narratives are far-ranging and contradictory. As Derek Pearsall puts it, :the story has been the embodiment at different times of chivalric idealism, patriotic nationalism, spiritual aspiration, the idealization of romantic sexual love, and the fear of sexuality--and the critical and ironic questioning of all these forms of value; (Arthurian Romance vii).

Class activities will be based on short readings and in-class screenings. The readings include poems (Tennyson・s The Lady of Shalott), short excerpts from novels, and scholarly essays. We begin with an in depth discussion on the representation of desire in Tennyson・s Victorian poem and the songs and paintings it has inspired. The following two weeks consist of student presentations on Arthurian characters, themes and settings, and how they change over time in both literary and visual representations. After this introduction to the legends, we focus on 21st-century renderings of the stories in film and the television shows, which will be viewed with the English subtitles. Our visual narrative texts begin with a 2001 miniseries based on a popular novel of the same name, The Mists of Avalon (1983). The novel has several narrators who together retell the Arthurian story from the POV of its central female characters; the series retells it from the point of view of a single narrator (sometimes in voiceover), Morgaine, or Morgan le Fay, the usually vilified pagan priestess. Next is the 2004 film King Arthur, which casts Guinevere in a new light (and in considerably less clothing) and takes the Arthurian themes of social justice and national allegiances a step or two further, with critical reflections that resonate with contemporary scholarship on colonial histories. Finally we will consider the contemporary fantasy genre・s use of Arthurian meanings and values in the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones, also based on a bestselling novel (in this case it is a set of novels, still being published). Game of Thrones is not about Arthur, yet incorporates Arthurian elements and themes such as the hidden monarch, the nature of just rule, and the contradictions of chivalry.

Class meetings will consist of student-led discussions in pairs, groups and/or as a class. The midterms consist of character-based dialogues in which each student will demonstrate an understanding of the themes and issues we have discussed in class. Each student will do two midterms; one prepared, and one a spontaneous in-character reponse to another student・s prepared performance. The final exam will be a group fanfic performance, written and designed by the group, based on the film characters, narratives and gender issues covered in class. Each performance will be followed by an explanation and a class discussion.

Course Policy:

All conversation in this course will be conducted in English. This class requires the full, active and engaged participation of each student. Grades will be calculated according to students・ weekly participation (33%), a presentation (33%), and the final performance (33%). Attendance is mandatory: two unexcused absences are permitted; a third will result in a failing grade for the class. Three tardies equal one absence.


Course reader, available at Gaoguan.


W1 02-26 Course introduction.
W2 03-05 Lady of Shalott. Tennyson, McKennitt.
Embowered women, weaving women, mirrors, magic, unknown consequences, and a dead beauty in a boat floating down a river.
Sign up for presentations.
W3 03-12 The Arthurian world: individual presentations.
W4 03-19 Finish presentations.
W5 03-26 Feminist revisionism: Rewriting Morgan le Fay.
The Mists of Avalon; :Thoughts on Avalon.;
Begin viewing Mists; discussion.
W6 04-02 Finish viewing Mists; group reports.
W7 04-09 Midterm I: begin character dialogues on Mists.
W8 04-16 Midterm I: finish character dialogues on Mists.
W9 04-23 Political fantasy retellings: Arthur and Guinevere.
Excerpts from Arthurian Romance: A Short Introduction.
W10 04-30 View King Arthur.
W11 05-07 Discussion groups on King Arthur.
W12 05-14 Midterm II: character dialogues on King Arthur.
W13 05-21 Arthurian echoes in political fantasy: Game of Thrones.
View Game of Thrones episodes.
W14 05-28 Game of Thrones: discussion with group reports
W15 06-04 Midterm III: character dialogues on Game of Thrones.
W16 06-11 Review.
W17 06-18 Prepare final performances.
W18 06-25 Final performances.