Universität Wien FIND

123042 PS Literary Studies / Proseminar Literature (2021W)

Robin Hood and the Outlaw Myth

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

This is a synchronous online class. It will not be recorded.

Tuesday 05.10. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 12.10. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 19.10. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 09.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 16.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 23.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 30.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 07.12. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 14.12. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 11.01. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 18.01. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Tuesday 25.01. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

“Many men speak of Robin Hood, who never drew his bow.” There is hardly a proverb (qtd. in Knight 7) that describes the nature of the Robin Hood legend more accurately. Despite Robin Hood’s persistent popularity (a Google search yields 47,000.000 results (!)), familiarity with his medieval origins is basic at best.
‘Born’ more than six hundred years ago, Britain’s most famous outlaw continues to fascinate popular audiences and critics alike, as is testified by an increasing number of works of fiction, TV shows and film versions of the hero, as well as a growing corpus of Robin Hood scholarship.
While the popular notion of Robin Hood as the ‘noble outlaw’, resisting unjust authority and taking from the rich to give to the poor, has shaped the hero’s image, the earliest (con)texts paint a very different picture. Here, we are confronted with an elusive Robin, difficult to characterise, and often not at all the epitome of goodness that we have come to cherish.

In this pro-seminar, we will study the popular outlaw in his various manifestations. We will explore the rootedness of the legend in folkloric tradition – the medieval play games –, its relation to the outlaw myth and the tradition of the ‘social bandit’, the politics and ideological implications of the Robin Hood material, and the relevance of transgression. Together, we will analyse the structural and formal properties of the texts and familiarise ourselves with a number of critical and methodological approaches that can help us understand the historical, sociological, and cultural contexts of the Robin Hood material.
As part of this class, we will also briefly revise the basics of academic writing.

Disclaimer: Please note that a large part of this class will be dedicated to the late medieval and early modern Robin Hood legend, especially the early ballads, as well as excerpts from related tales and play texts. This is not a film class. While we will trace the trajectory of the outlaw throughout the ages and look at later versions of the Robin Hood myth, this will not be our main focus. You will hence be expected to read a large number of (annotated) texts from the medieval and early modern period as well as take over an expert session on one of these texts. Please be prepared to do so.

At the end of this seminar, you should be able to:
- read, summarise, and contextualise a number of late medieval, early modern, and modern texts featuring the/an outlaw
- identify the plots, characters, and major themes of the texts discussed in class and analyse their formal features
- describe continuities and differences between the texts, also with reference to their different cultural/temporal contexts
- read and give an account of relevant secondary texts, explain their main ideas, and identify the major theoretical concepts they introduce
- find and use secondary literature that can help you understand the artifacts discussed in class
- read a number of critical and methodological approaches, summarise their main points, contrast and relate them to each other, apply them to the primary texts
- plan and write an academic paper about one of the discussed texts (or a related topic)
- assess your colleagues’ performances and give peer-feedback

Knight, Stephen. Robin Hood. A Mythic Biography. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2003.

Assessment and permitted materials

Regular attendance (max. two absences); students are expected to prepare the assigned readings, complete a number of written assignments and quizzes, participate actively in class, and be part of an expert group, including an oral presentation. To complete the class, you will have to hand in a term paper on a related topic of your choice and a short abstract.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Classroom participation and written assignments 20%
Presentation / expert sessions 20%
Abstract 10% (ca 300 words)
Term paper 50% (ca 3500 words)
Points must be collected in all of these categories. Students must attain at least 60% to pass this course.

Marks in %:
1 (sehr gut): 90-100
2 (gut): 80-89
3 (befriedigend): 70-79
4 (genügend): 60-69
5 (nicht genügend): 0-59

Examination topics

All topics covered in class. Students are expected to read and prepare the assigned primary and secondary texts, participate actively in class, hand in written assignments on time, and lead one expert session. There will be no written exam.

Reading list

Most of the primary texts handled in class are available online via https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/publication/knight-and-ohlgren-robin-hood-and-other-outlaw-tales
Additional material (tba) will be made available via moodle.

Association in the course directory

Studium: BA 612; BEd 046 / 407
Code/Modul: BA10.1; BEd 08a.1, BEd 08b.2
Lehrinhalt: 12-3041

Last modified: Fr 12.05.2023 00:16