ENGLISH 113 MEDIEVAL LITERATURE
Professor Jeffrey Cohen
Rome Hall 763
|This course surveys some important works by medieval authors, from classics like Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to little-known texts like Gerald of Wales's musings on what it meant to be a child of mixed race in the Middle Ages. Special emphasis on how medieval identities were different from contemporary ones, especially regarding ethnicity and gender. This course will integrate electronic technology into the classroom and learning experience.|
Requirements: class attendance
and active participation (every class you miss affects your grade; missing
more than TWO classes means that you have failed the course); use of the
course web page and electronic resources; a midterm; short assignments;
an eight page paper; and a final examination.
ELECTRONIC RESOURCE CLUSTERS
The following links will bring you to pages
which organize material of relevance to the geographies and disciplines
explored in this course. These clusters are your point of departure for
exploring in greater depth the topics which we do not always have time
to invesitigate fully in class.
General Medieval Studies Resources
Iceland and Northern Europe
Schedule of Readings
8/28 Introduction: Myths of the Middle Ages
In this class we explore how complicated the vast period of time collected under the title "The Middle Ages" really is. Among the texts we discuss is the thirteenth century fabliau "The Maiden Who Couldn't Hear Fuck Without Having Heartburn" (translated John DuVal, Fabliaux Fair and Foul) and the life of Saint Boniface in the Golden Legend. Among the objects we examine is the Franks Casket, a whalebone box which demonstrates the hybridity of medieval culture and religion.
8/30 A Very Brief History of Early England / Old English Poetry (Follow the links below for the readings. Print them out and bring to class.) A handy reference for this class is the Britannia Time Line.
I: Grendel and Community
Provided the multimedia gods are willing, today we examine the treasures of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo via the British Museum's Compass site (follow the link from the Anglo-Saxon England resource cluster, above). A comparison of Seamus Heaney's translation of the Scyld Scefing burial with that by Howell Chickering will remind us of the effects of linguistic distance on our interpretations. A reading of "The Wanderer" will help us to understand heroic community and Grendel's ambiguous place within it.
9/11 Beowulf II: Grendels' Mother, the Dragon, and
the Ends of Heroism
The psychology of monstrousness and its relation to landscape. Grendel's mother and the dragon as part of the heroic system.The passing of a heroic age, and Beowulf's ambiguous end. And, since we talked about it:
9/18 Grettir's Saga II: Monsters, Heroes, and Icelandic Futures
Grettir's son Skeggi and the saga never written. Monsters and heroes, again.
9/20 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book I
Rewriting history: what Bede did to Gildas. The vanishing Britons in the Life of Saint Guthlac. Colony.
9/25 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Books II
Strategies of conversion: Angli and angels, old shrines with new Gods. Performing Caedmon. Conversion and colonization, or why worry over the date of Easter.
9/27 Irish Myths
Follow the links below to stories archived at The Ulster Cycle web site and the readings for today's class:
10/2 Marie de France, Lais
Toward a history of nondominant sexualities: Marie's polyamorous permutations. Werewolves and homoeroticism.
10/4 Marie de France, Lais
Against the mythology of the couple. The invention of married bliss.
10/9 Columbus Day
|10/11 Midterm Exam|
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
(Brutus and Constantine sections, pp. 51-102 and 149-169).
How to invent history and make it seem like it actually occured. Why history must be messy. Trojan blood.
10/18 Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain (Arthur section, pp. 205-284)
Red and white dragons. The deaths of Arthur.
10/23 Song of Roland
The Roland as both pro-Norman history and Crusading document. Histories of medieval race. Difference in the body.
10/25 Travels of Sir John Mandeville I
Histories of pilgrimage: Mandeville's difference. On medieval cosmopolitanism. Fantasies of the East.
10/30 Travels of Sir John Mandeville II
11/1 Book of Margery Kempe
Read Proem and Book I, chapters 1-11, 15, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 30, 33, 36, 41, 52, 76, 89
11/6 paper writing workshop; first paragraph of paper due
11/8 paper consultations by appointment
11/13 open paper consultations
11/15 paper due in class
11/20 Thanksgiving Break begins early (unless needed for catch-up day)
11/22 Thanksgiving Break
11/27 Gerald of Wales, Journey Through Wales
11/29 Gerald of Wales, Description of Wales
12/4 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
12/6 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
12/11 Retrospect / Benediction