HUMS 033: Six Pretty Good Knights

Meeting Time: 
TTh 4-5:15p, F 1-4p
Fall 2023

Instructor: Alessandro Giammei

What do Batman (the Dark Knight) and Orlando (Charlemagne’s wise paladin) have in common? What is the thread that connects the Jedi knights of Star Wars and those that sat around king Arthur’s round table? How did medieval history and Renaissance poetry inform the expanded universes of superhero movies and fantasy literature, along with the inexhaustible fan-fiction that further extends and queers them?

Chivalry, as a code of conduct and a network of symbols, inspired some of the most entertaining stories of the so-called Western canon, blurring the divide between high and popular culture. It offered storytellers (and nerds) of all ages a set of norms to question, bend, and break—especially in terms of gender. It challenged the very format of books, re-defining for good concepts like literary irony, seriality, and inter-mediality.

This seminar proposes six pretty good trans-historical archetipes of fictional knights, combining iconic figures such as Marvel’s Iron Man and Italo Calvino’s Agilulfo, Ludovico Ariosto’s Bradamante and Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth, Don Quixote and the Mandalorian. By analyzing together their oaths, weapons, armors, and destinies we aim to develop reading and writing skills to tackle any text, from epic and scholarship to TV-shows and comic-books.