University of Houston students don't have to venture into Sherwood Forest or Nottingham to learn about Robin Hood. A new undergraduate literature class is taking aim at the iconic archer antihero using classic texts and contemporary technology.
"Robin Hood: From Medieval Outlaw to Postmodern Media Creature" follows the character's evolution from his medieval beginnings to recent Hollywood adaptations. It also will provide insight on the cultural impact of Robin Hood as an anti-authority figure bent on helping others.
"When students came into class, the first thing I asked them was what they knew about Robin Hood," said Lorraine Stock, associate professor of English. "Nearly all of them responded with ‘He robs the rich and gives to the poor.' One of the purposes of this course is to undo this presumption and help students realize how complex this legendary figure is."
Stock and co-instructor, teaching fellow Jason Pitruzzello, engage students in classroom conversations focused on readings and online film and TV clips. Among the movies and television shows students will view are 1938's "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (starring Erroll Flynn), 1976's "Robin and Marian" (starring Sean Connery), 1991's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (starring Kevin Costner), 1993's "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" (starring Cary Elwes), and the 2006-09 BBC TV series "Robin Hood" (starring Jonas Armstrong). She also plans to include clips of this year's "Robin Hood" (starring Russell Crowe) after its Sept. 21 DVD release.
Although film clips will play a large role in the class, Stock will fully explore centuries-old texts that precede the film adaptations. While Robin Hood is perhaps the most popular medieval character to grace the silver screen, scholars often dismiss him, Stock said.
"Robin Hood texts have tended to be overlooked by scholars of medieval literature," she said. "They're not part of the canon like Malory's ‘Morte D'Arthur.' For all of the attention Hollywood has lavished on Robin Hood, academics have tended not to go there. I am trying to get more attention to Robin Hood in a scholarly way."
Stock and Pitruzzello also are committed to increasing the research output of undergraduate students. Later in the semester, students will undertake an intensive research project. Student work that is deemed suitable will be included on a comprehensive UH website titled "Robin Hood in Culture." The site is being developed by Stock and Pitruzzello.
"There are other Robin Hood Web sites out there," she said. "I want the UH website to be different. I would like to see student works comprise a large portion of its content. That's an added incentive for students to engage in quality research and turn in good work. Being published on an Internet publication can bolster their portfolios and resumes."