E 379S • Senior Seminar
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Until very recently it was impossible to offer courses on medieval women writers because 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. Our readings will come from several languages (Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin) and 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 whose texts were written down by others. We will also examine women as readers in medieval England, reading 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. With a few very short exceptions, required readings will be in modern English translations, so no prior knowledge of Middle English is necessary.
Each student will be expected to present a short oral report in class and to write one short (5-page) paper (with required revision) and a longer (15-page) research paper to be turned in both in rough draft and final form. The class will be conducted as much as possible by discussion.
Attendance, class discussion, and the oral report 40%
Written work 60%
The Lais of Marie de France
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
The Book of Margery Kempe
"The Floure and the Leafe"
Saint Bride and Her Book
David Bell, What Nuns Read
Selections from Mary Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski, Women and Power in the Middle Ages
Alexandra Barratt, Womens Writing in Middle English