E 379S • Senior Seminar
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
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.
Each student will be expected to present a short oral report in class and to write one short (3-page) analysis of a scholarly article (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 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
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, Women's Writing in Middle English