E 379S • Medieval Women Writers and Readers in England
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
As part of our University-directed self-assessment project, the English Department has initiated an ePortfolio program for English majors. You will be asked to submit, in electronic form, two documents--a one page essay on the English major and a copy of your final paper for the seminar. Additionally, you will be asked to complete a brief four question survey. During the semester, you will receive details from your instructor or from the English Department on completing the survey and submitting the documents on your senior seminar's Blackboard website.
Until very recently it was impossible to offer courses in medieval women writers because so few of them were known and so few of their works were edited and translated. Now, as more and more information and material becomes available, we can focus on women writers in a specific geographical area: England. Even with such a focus, the readings will come from works written originally in several languages, and they will be drawn from a variety of genres: autobiography, letters, chivalric short stories (lais), devotional tracts, and mystical revelations. The writers we will study include learned nuns, learned laywomen, and illiterate women, both lay and religious, whose texts were written down by others.
But we will also examine women as consumers of books in medieval England by looking at samples of the kinds of books written especially for them, including devotional treatises and behaviour manuals, as well as those which they read in very great numbers, such as lurid saints' lives, prayer books, and vernacular romances (some of these readings will be chosen by the class). We will study what books women in England owned, commissioned, and inherited.
Required readings will be in modern English translations, although students will be encouraged to read other Middle English works in the original as well. (No prior knowledge of Middle English is necessary.)
Each student will be expected to present one short oral report in class on a reading assignment and a longer oral report at the end on the research paper. Written assignments: a short (3-page) analysis of a scholarly article (with required revision), a longer (15-page) research paper to be turned in both in rough draft and final form, and a short (3-page) annotated bibliography of the material used for the research paper. The class will be conducted as much as possible by discussion. Attendance, class discussion, and the oral report will determine 40% of the final grade, written work 60%.
The Lais of Marie de France
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
The Book of Margery Kempe
Ancrene Wisse: Guide for Anchoresses
Christine de Pisan's Letter of Othea to Hector
Meale, ed., Women and Literature in Britain, 1150-1500