The Wild Man Within and Without (Remote)

James Newlin
Lecturer, English, CWRU
Tuesdays, June 22 - July 27
1 - 2:30 p.m. ET

There have always been myths about “The Wild Man,” that figure who exists outside of society, as a kind of living rebuttal to the values of the “civilized” world. These stories are rich social documents that illuminate how a culture defines itself in relation to those that it excludes or fears. Whether these myths present wild men as heretics, lunatics, or “noble savages,” they exist to tell us something about ourselves and about our animal nature. They also provide a way of understanding, and all too often demonizing, the other. We will consider myths of wildness across literary history, from the "green men" of Arthurian legend to early colonialist accounts of indigenous peoples to recent portrayals of madmen in contemporary film. Our class will examine the ways that cultural norms and values are constructed, reinforced, and in these myths from our past and present. As the literary critic Earl Miner suggests, the aim of these narratives is “not so much to understand the Wild Man as to understand oneself.”

Read: Armitage, Simon, translator. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Norton, ISBN 9780393334159; Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. (Arden Third Edition (Revised), eds. Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughn, ISBN 9781408133477)

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