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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 387R • The Medieval and Early Modern Curriculum

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35669 MW
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
PAR 214

Course Description

In this class we will concentrate on the works that were read by the greatest number of students across western Europe, that is, those at the lower-to-middle levels of the curriculum. These were written in Latin and will be read in English translation in this class, although students who can read Latin will be encouraged to look at the original versions. (Students with a knowledge of other medieval curricular languages, like Arabic, are definitely welcome.) Several of the shortest works will be read in class in order to facilitate discussion of hearing vs. reading, and group vs. individual reactions. One of my major interests is the impact of these aspects of early textual experience on the later writing of adults.

The connection between reading and (re)writing, which was an extremely important component of the classroom during these periods, will be replicated to the extent that this is possible with modern students at a much more advanced stage in their education. There will be several ungraded composition assignments (such as a fable, a speech in the voice of a literary character, rewriting a sentence to use a given word in every part of the sentence, etc.) written either individually at home or composed as a group during class.

The texts fall into roughly three chronological groups: the carefully sequenced pagan and pseudo-pagan texts that were the core of the curriculum in the high Middle Ages, the revised sequence of works with specifically Christian themes or subjects that were introduced at the end of the Middle Ages, and the increasing use of prose works that was one of the hallmarks of renaissance education. Discussion and secondary readings will address premodern assumptions about age and gender connected with the choice of readings for adolescent males in school.

We will also read a selection of short classroom dramas and examine the evidence for the performance of parts of literary texts by students in both periods (though I won't ask the students in the class to imitate this practice unless they want to!). The selection of additional works to be read will be made in consultation with the class and based on their own periods, disciplines, and research interests. An historical research topic related to the history of the curriculum will be chosen by each student in consultation with me. Students working in other periods can focus their research topics there. It is important that each research topic be based on evidence of curricular practice, rather than on the history of educational theory or theorists. We will pick the research topics early in the semester, and assignments related to each topic will be due throughout the second half of the semester. The research paper itself will be due in both rough draft and final form on specific dates, and there will be no extensions. E ach student will present a short oral report to the class on his or her research topic, accompanied by a handout of a short annotated bibliography.


PRIMARY TEXTS (this list and the next are preliminary and may be changed; some of these works are extremely short):

I. Distichs of Cato

Eclogue of Theodulus

Fables of Avianus

Statius, Achilleid

Claudian, Rape of Proserpine

II. Facetus

Chartula, or, On Contempt for the World

Liber Parabolarum (book of proverbs)

Matthew of Vendôme, Tobias


III. Sallust, The Jugurthine War or The Conspiracy of Catiline

Cicero, Selected Letters

IV. Terence, The Eunuch



Renaissance classroom drama(s) TBA

If time: Section of more advanced literary text (e.g., Ovid's Art of Love, Heroides, or Metamorphoses; Virgil's Aeneid, etc.) to be chosen by class

Excerpt from Puttenham, Art of English Poesy, ed. Whigham and Rebhorn


Selections from the following volumes:

Baldwin, William Shakespere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke

Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 1300-1600

Kline, ed., Medieval Literature for Children

Kraye, ed., Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism

Murphy, ed., A Short History of Writing Instruction: From Ancient Greece to Modern America, 2nd. ed.

Orme, Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England

Also articles or chapters by Robert Black, Ann M. Blair, Martin Camargo, Susan Einbinder, Dilwin Knox, Peter Mack, and Marjorie Woods, with additional readings based on the interests of the class.


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