Marjorie Curry Woods
Professor — Ph.D., U. of Toronto
Blumberg Centennial Professor of English and University Distinguished Teaching Professor
Latin palaeography, medieval literature; medieval and renaissance rhetoric and pedagogy; composition exercises in the premodern classroom; modern use of premodern compostion exercises
Professor Marjorie (Jorie) Woods grew up in the military and moved almost every year. Changing schools so often generated her interest in teaching, and she studies both how students were taught to write in medieval schools, and the use of premodern classroom exercises in the modern classroom. In 2010 she published her decades-long study of the teachers' notes in margins of the manuscripts of a medieval rhetorical treatise, entitled Classroom Commentaries: Teaching the Poetria nova across Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Currently she is working on how female characters from classical texts were studied and performed in the classroom by boys during the Middle Ages.
At UT she has received a Humanites Research Award, the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence, the University President's Associates' Teaching Excellence Award, and the Chad Oliver Plan II Teaching Award. Jorie Woods is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, and the Center for Epigraphical and Palaeographical Studies at The Ohio State University, as well as research grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Philosophical Society. An Early Commentary on the Poetria nova of Geoffrey of Vinsauf (1985) received Honorable Mention for the John Nicholas Brown Award of the Medieval Academy of America. Her latest book, Classroom Commentaries: Teaching the Poetria nova across Medieval and Renaissance Europe, has been awarded the 2010 Rhetoric Society of America Book Award. She received the Rome Prize in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies from the American Academy in Rome, where she spent 2007-2008 working on her next book project, Weeping for Dido: The Teaching of the Classics in the Middle Ages. She continued working on this project as a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton during 2011-2012. During 2014-15 she presented the results as the Gombrich Lectures at the Warburg Institute in London and conducted further manuscript research at the American Academy in Berlin; All Souls College, Oxford; and the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.
MDV 392M • Medieval Rhetoric And Poetics
41025 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm CAL 323
(also listed as C L 381, E 387R)
This course will explore the development of key medieval theoretical and practical ideas about writing, whether in verse or prose, through close readings of rhetorical treatises, arts of poetry, manuals of letter-writing and preaching, and a significant literary text. Medieval composition theory and practice were based on a pedagogy that focused on craft and effect (including affect), and that began with poetry, moving to prose later in the curriculum. While some of the most well-known medieval rhetorical treatises focus on religious issues, most of the work of the writing classroom drew heavily on classical models and treatises.
We will examine the rhetorical uses of poetry as well as the aesthetic considerations of rhetoric. The assigned readings will introduce you to various ways that rhetoric was interpreted and used during the Middle Ages, especially in its intersection with literature and overlap with poetics. (The most popular and influential medieval rhetorical treatise was written in verse and based in part on a classical art of poetry, while the medieval theory and practice of literary characterization was based on Ciceronian rhetorical doctrine.) We will experiment with several medieval composition exercises in class to help us determine the impact of the practice, as well as the theories, of medieval rhetoric and poetics. As a means of deepening our consideration of how such issues were framed during the Middle Ages, we will also look at modern theoretical treatments of similar questions to establish a fruitful dialogue between the articulation of such concerns in medieval and modern discourses.
The direction of the course in the last weeks of the semester will be determined by the particular interests of the students in the class. Students in Creative Writing and those focusing on other historical periods are welcome, and I will work out a relevant research topic with each student individually. Written assignment includes a short analytical or creative assignment, an annotated bibliography covering the reading for class as well as research interests, and a research paper to be turned in both in rough draft and final form. There will be no extensions, and class attendance is required. Each student will present a short oral report based on the reading assignments in a particular class, as well as a longer oral presentation of his or her research project.
MDV 392M • Medieval And Early Mod Curric
40245 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm UTC 4.120
(also listed as C L 381, E 387R)
This course will encompass three overlapping sets of texts taught at schools and some universities during the medieval, late medieval, and early modern periods, particularly in England--although most were also taught on the continent, sometimes for much longer. A number of these texts were also taught in American schools and colleges (and formed the basis of libraries of British and American novelists and poets well into the nineteenth century). The works include collections of proverbs, fables, short verse narratives (classical as well as Christian), and prose works, including histories and speeches. We will end with Nicholas Orme’s English School Exercises, 1420-1530 and perhaps part of Quentin Skinner’s Forensic Shakespeare.
Although some histories of education will be consulted, the emphasis of the course will be on actually reading the texts known to most educated men (and some women) of the periods. Almost all the works were originally written for adults and in Latin, although all required reading for the course will be in English. The emphasis in choosing among the many possible readings will be the works most widely taught. A number of Latin printed editions of the works are in the HRC’s collections.
Students of all periods are welcome in the course, and research projects (and some of the material on the syllabus) will be worked out individually for each student.
The written requirements are one short paper due near the beginning of the semester on a secondary source, and a research paper due in both rough draft and final form. Students will be required to introduce the discussion on the readings for one class and to present an oral report with annotated bibliography on the research project.
Preliminary reading list of primary sources:
The Distichs of Cato (proverbs)
Eclogue of Theodulus (debate poem between a Jewish girl and a Pagan boy)
Fables of Avianus
Troy Books for Boys:
Achilleid of Statius
Ilias Latina (“Latin Homer”)
Memories of Sexual Exploits;
The Elegies of Maximian
Virgil, Aeneid, Books 1-6
A New Slant:
On Contempt for the World
Tobias of Matthew of Vendôme
Back to Antiquity:
Sallust, Catiline or Jugurtha
Cicero, Selected Letters
Nicholas Orme, English School Exercises, 1420-1530
Other primary readings may be added, and the secondary readings chosen, according to the research interests of the students.
MDV 392M • Boys Being Women:the Classroom
41565 • Fall 2013
Meets MW 900am-1030am CAL 419
(also listed as E 392M, WGS 393)
Boys Being Women:
Rhetoric, Gender, and Emotion in the Classroom
Women’s emotions in Virgil’s Aeneid were an important part of the school experiences of St. Augustine. As he tells us in the Confessions, he “grieved for Dido, slain as she sought by the sword an end to her woe,” and one of his school assignments was to rewrite in prose and perform his version of Juno’s speech expressing her “grief and rage that she could not keep the Trojan prince [Aeneas] from coming to Italy…” (Conf. 1.13 and 17). Augustine was not alone in this experience. Many schoolboys in the ancient, late antique, medieval, and early modern periods performed and composed speeches by very emotional literary (and, in the byzantine tradition, biblical) characters, often women, as an integral part of their study of rhetoric. These speeches and the pedagogical tradition to which they belong will be the object of our study this semester.
From the point of view of the history of creativity, the most important aspect of this tradition is the element of fantasy and projection on the part of the students. We will examine the psychological implications and pedagogical usefulness of such training both in historical terms and also with regard to how some of these exercises might be modified for our own classrooms, where we encounter some surprisingly similar issues. Recent research on memory, empathy, and emotion will form part of our discussions.
Emotion filtered through the lens of gender was a key component of the internalization of texts, with profound effects both in the classroom and on female characterization by adult writers like Chaucer, and as Lynn Enterline’s recent Shakespeare’s Schoolroom suggests. Centuries earlier, Statius’s unfinished Achilleid presented a young Achilles whose gender- (and species-)bending adolescence was found so useful by medieval teachers that they completed the work and made hundreds of copies of it. New translations and recent scholarship reveal a rich and textured history of experimentation in crossing boundaries for pedagogical purposes. We will add to this scholarship even as we investigate what insights into the modern classroom knowledge about this tradition may give us.
The course is open to graduate students at all levels and should be useful for and accessible to those in a number of disciplines. It functions as both as an approach to premodern texts via a thematic core and also a survey of a significant part of the western rhetorical, literary, and pedagogical tradition rarely studied as a whole.
All required readings will be in English, but a number of surviving student exercises from the earlier periods are still untranslated. Thus, translation projects as well as analyses from any historical, methodological, or theoretical approach will be welcome as topics for the research paper required of each student.
Written assignments will include a short paper (either creative or analytical) at the beginning of the semester, followed by a research paper submitted in two drafts. I like to have as wide a variety of students in my classes as possible, and those focusing on later periods will be allowed to write their research papers on material relating to their own areas of study. Each student’s topic will be worked out in consultation with the professor. Students will make two informal presentations, one on the readings for a particular class and another at the end on the research paper.
Preliminary list of readings:
Several books of Virgil’s Aeneid and selections from Augustine’s Confessions.
Statius, Achilleid in a new translation now in preparation; selections from recent critical studies Transvestite Achilles and Achilles in Love.
Libanius, Exercises in a Speech in Character.
Aphthonius, Progymnasmata (graded rhetorical exercises); selections on emotional speeches from other rhetorical handbooks.
Chaucer, selected short texts or Troilus and Criseyde.
Shakespeare, As You Like It and/or Marlowe, Dido, Queen of Carthage.
Enterline, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom.
McGaugh, Memory and Emotion.
Essays by Suzanne Keen, Jeffrey Walker, Raffaella Cribiore, Manfred Kraus, Eugenio Amato and Gianluca Ventrella, Federica Ciccolella, Vessela Valiavitcharska, Jan Ziolkowski, and Marjorie Curry Woods.
[The final list of readings will be determined by the interests and strengths of the students.]
For a complete publications listing, please download the full CV.
Classroom Commentaries: Teaching the Poetria nova across Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Ohio State University Press, 2010.
"Rhetoric, Gender, and the Literary Arts: Classical Speeches in the Schoolroom." New Medieval Literature 11 (2009).
"You May Have Changed My Life." English Language Notes 4 (2009). Special Issue on Experimental Literary Pedagogy.
"A Medieval Rhetorical Manual in the 17th Century: The Case of Christian Daum and the Poetria nova." Classica et Beneventana: Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of Her 65th Birthday. 2008.
''Using the Poetria nova to Teach Dictamen in Italy and Central Europe.'' Papers on Rhetoric V. 2003.
''Weeping for Dido: Epilogue on a Premodern Rhetorical Exercise in the Postmodern Classroom,'' Latin Grammar and Rhetoric: From Classical Theory to Medieval Practice. 2002.
''La retórica en el aula medieval, con algunas aplicationes modernas.'' Lecturas retóricas de la sociedad. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2002.
''Boys Will Be Women: Musings on Classroom Nostalgia and the Chaucerian Audience(s).'' Speaking Images: Essays in Honor of V.A. Kolve. 2001.
''The Teaching of Poetic Composition in the Later Middle Ages.'' A Short History of Writing Instruction: From Ancient Greece to Modern America. 2001.
Awards & Honors
Awards & Honors
(last ten years; for complete list please download CV)
- Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, 2011-201
- Phi Beta Kappa Alpha of Texas Award for Distinction in Teaching, 2011
- 2011 Book Award from the Rhetoric Society of America (for Classroom Commentaries, 2010)
- Paul W. Mellon Rome Prize in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, American Academy in Rome, 2007-2008
- Chad Oliver Teaching Award, Plan II Honors Program, 2007
- Harry H. Ransom Teaching Award, College of Liberal Arts, 2006
- University of Texas Special Research Grant, 2004-2005
- Virginia Brown Fellowship, The Center for Epigraphical and Palaeographical Studies, The Ohio State University, November 2005
- C. B. Smith, Sr., Nash Phillips, Clyde Copus Centennial Chair Honoring Harry Huntt Ransom Fellowship, University of Texas, 2005-2006
- Dean’s Fellowship, College of Liberal Arts, Fall 2005
- President’s Associates’ Teaching Award, University of Texas, 2004