HYPERTEXT SYLLABUS WITH ELECTRONIC RESOURCES
Professor Jeffrey J. Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dept. of English, George Washington University
Office Hours: Wednesdays 2-4 Rome Hall 763
Through the careful analysis of a variety of literary and historical texts, this course will examine how a lonely and remote island was transformed through successive invasions into the nation of England. Texts reflecting Celtic, Northern European, Latin, and French traditions will be read (in English) along with selected contemporary essays in post-colonial theory. Topics include: migration, displacement, and colonization; the creation of a mythic past; monsters and nationalism; the transformation of sexuality and identity under changed regimes of power.
WARNING: This is a challenging course with a high workload and a demanding teacher. In order to do well, you must read critically a diverse selection of texts, write excellent analytical papers, and contribute to the intellectual debate in the class. If you cannot commit yourself to fulfilling these requirements, you should take a different course.
Requirements: class attendance and participation (every class you miss affects your grade; missing more than TWO classes means that you have failed the course); one midterm exam; an 8pp. paper; and a final exam. These will count towards the total assessment of your grade in the proportions 20:20:30:30 respectively. There will also be several short writing assignments which will count toward participation and attendance.
General Electronic Resources in Medieval and Postcolonial
Labyrinth The best internet resource for all things medieval
On-Line Reference Book for Medieval Studies (ORB) (Especially useful is the ORB on-line bibliographies)
Internet Medieval Sourcebook
Medieval Feminist Index
Postcolonial Studies (from Voice of the Shuttle)
Contemporary Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English
We start with the assumption that England (Britannia, Albion, Great Britain, the United Kingdom) never pre-existed its "discovery," but had to be invented -- again and again. Today we talk about prehistoric peoples, Stonehenge and other ancient monuments, and the Celtic and Roman invasions.
An examination of how Britain's "pre-histroy" was imagined by Caesar, Gildas, Bede, and Geoffrey of Monmouth. The Roman conquest and Celtic resistance. Why empty lands flow with milk and honey, and why they are never as empty as they first seem. The monsterization of aborigines. Celtic culture in Britain and under Roman occupation.
II: The Celts
A consideration of how much "authentic" Celtic culture can be glimpsed in the surviving archival trace; Bricrui's house as a metaphor for Celtic survival. Old Irish values: heroism, kingship, the place of women. The Cu Chulaind cycle: animals and the construction of the human body. Derdriu's suicide and the possibility of feminine agency.
|Sep. 2||Good Barbarians
and Decadent Romans
The Agricola and its strangely empty Britain. The emperor Domitian, the "reign of terror," and a silent senator's guilt. Ethnography as social critique. Heroic community: the baritus and the comitatus. Idealism and contempt in the Germania, or why Tacitus enjoys watching 60,000 "naturally" noble Germans massacre each other.
|Sep. 7||LABOR DAY|
Germanic culture: wergeld, ordeals, warbands, homosociality and identity. Interpreting the invasion: Gildas and the "bastard" Saxons; Bede's Gildas and the impulse to convert. Bede's "Angles, Saxons and Jutes" as imaginary unifiers. Topographical memory and the history of the land.
Can the Christianization of Britain be read in the same terms as its colonization? Conversion and translation: pagan temples with Christian altars; Caedmon's Hymn in Old English and Latin; Gregory's angelic Angles; life figured as a big hall in winter. Strategies of conversion: the masculinization of the pagan priest, or Coifu against himself. Imagining unity.
Bede's history from another point of view. Oswald as King of the English. Multiculturalism at Iona: Scots, Englishmen, Frisians, Gauls. Warriors and saints: milites Christi. The narrative power of miracles. Adomnan's non-narrative: the reinvention (or colonization?) of time.
|Sep. 21 & 23||
De-centering England, creating a worldview. Mappaemundi: conceptual vs. practical systems. The island of the professional deflowerers: sexual fantasy and Mandeville's putative audience. Jerusalem as omphalos. Against the Saracen swarm: Mandeville's foreign service. The price Jews pay for tolerance and cultural relativism.
|Sep. 28||English Center
Divine Truth and the unwilling body. Vengeful saints. Hybridity: the man who gave birth to a cow, the mare that birthed a deer-horse. Hybridity: Gerald's mixed ethnicity. England's strategies for annexing Wales. The Third Crusade. Inhabiting a stereotype (sly civility): how a priest ate grass and proved the Welsh are smarter than the stereotypes they choose to embody. Gerald's dream of an archbishopric. Becket, Baldwin, and Gerald.
|Sep. 30||No Class (Yom Kippur)|
Trip to National Cathedral (meet at front porch, 10:30 am)
The Christian organization of space. Cathedrals and the practice
of everyday life in the Middle Ages. Architecture and bodies.
|Oct. 5||Innocent Observers
Gerald's allegiances, again. History as resitance: giving a "timeless" land its temporality. Welsh language and failures of translation. Why Gerald witnsessed the exhumation of Arthur. Onceness and futurity.
|Oct. 7||Midterm examination|
|Oct. 12||COLUMBUS DAY|
|Oct. 14||Readings in
PoCo Theory I:
Nationalism and the Imagining of Community
|Oct. 19||Readings in
PoCo Theory II:
Nation and Language
|Oct. 21||Readings in
PoCo Theory III:
Mimicry, Civility, Hybridity
Problems of origin: the birth of Merlin, the birth of Arthur, and the myth of the incubus. The evil Saxon as "intimate alien." How belief becomes "sticky" and hardens into history. Vortigern's dragon-bottomed tower (see image). The "empty, homogeneous time" of colony vs. the too full, heterogenous time of the colonized. Why problematic histories are the only effective ones.
|Oct. 28||Special Lecture
Cannibalism, and the Fragile Body in Early England"
Problems of origin and problems of closure. From king to Emperor. Rewriting Caesar and world history. The encounter against the giant: sex, violence, imperial power. Guenevere's story. Onceness without futurity?
|Nov. 4||Writing Workshop
Bring copies of first paragraph of paper to class for discussion of good writing techniques and peer evaluation.
|Nov. 9||paper consultations (I will be available in my office from 9-12:30)|
|Nov. 12||PAPER DUE AT NOON|
Inventing the Saracen
Urban II and the First Crusade. Fulcher of Chartres and the necessity of dismembering Saracen bodies. Christian and Muslim atrocities. The body of the enemy and the corpus Christianum. Racialization and the text of the skin. "Pagans are wrong and Christians are right"? Ganelon's intimacy. Christian time, pagan time, and the end of the world. Disappointed endings: Charlemagne's weariness.
Violence, and Sacred Bodies
Yvain and the production of chivalric bodies. Juvenes, wish-fulfillment, and romance's desire. Women in romance. The history of the Grail: from fish plate to holy chalice. Cistercian anxieties and the secular. Colonizing romance bodies. Sex or celibacy. Transubstantiation, redemption, and agony. The disappearance of the feminine: the Castle of Maidens, Perceval's encounter with the devil, (homo)sexuality. Celibacy as heterosexuality's "new" other.
|Nov. 23||Arthurís Missing
Wace's "Saxons" and Layoman's "English." Problems of translation. Women and the untranslated share of Wace's Saxon evil (Rowena, Ygerne, Guenevere). Christian identity and Saxon "heathen hounds," or how Tervagant ends up in the Norse pantheon. Arthur as Germanic-style hero: generosity, elves, and the speaking Giant. Arthur's dream of the horse-like hall. From British to English futurity via Avalon.
|Nov. 25||Thanksgiving BREAK|
The end of legend. Arthur, the giant, and the widows. The rape of Helen. The rape of nations. When the hero becomes his own foe. The ambiguous dragon, or Lucius as Arthur. Imperialism as ingestion, or Arthur as monster. Chevauchee and the Hundred Years War. Arthur as widow: Gawain's holy blood. Medieval postcolonial critique?
(final examination Dec. 14, 11 a.m.)