E 326K • Literature of the Middle Ages in Translation
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
In this course we study a series of works with conflicting depictions of and attitudes toward love, sex, martyrdom, sexuality (including virginity), rape, and seduction. Whenever possible we compare texts written by men with similar texts written by women.
Students will be required to present one oral report (10-15 minutes) and three short papers (3-5 pages each), the first two of which will also be rewritten. There will be a choice of creative or analytical topics.
Class discussion and the oral report 40%
Written work 60%
We begin with the third-century Dream Visions of Perpetua (thought to be the earliest surviving autobiographical text by a woman), and a fifth-century pagan romance, Apollonius of Tyre, an early version of a story popular throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.
Our transition to later medieval works is two works by Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, who lived in the tenth century and wrote adventure dramas about early Christian martyrs.
The main focus of the course is a series of twelfth-century dramas, school texts, debate poems, and lyrics that are organized in very different ways around the images and vocabulary of love, sex, and creativity. As part of our studies we will read two earlier sources for medieval imagery of love and desire: Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid and the biblical Song of Songs. We will also take up the theme of martyrdom again in examining Hebrew martyrdom poems written in response to attacks on Jews in northern France.
We finish with a comparison of the lais of Marie de France with one of the romances of Chrétien de Troyes.
One week during the semester will be devoted to medieval manuscripts. We will read a book on how they were made, visit the collection at the Harry Ransom Center, and learn how to make transcriptions (an in-class, ungraded exercise).