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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2006

T C 357 • Love and Death in Late Medieval Literature-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42660 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
PAR 305

Course Description

This course serves as an introduction to the literature of the later Middle Ages in England, the period in which Geoffrey Chaucer writes his Canterbury Tales, through two of its most important subjects: love (courtly, sexual, and divine) and death (both bodily and spiritual corruption, decay, and mortification). The course is organized thematically across different medieval literary traditions--the courtly, the burlesque, and the religious, among others. In each tradition, we will read a variety of genres. Beginning our investigation of each tradition with short lyrics, we will also read romances (Chaucer's Knight's Tale; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Sir Orfeo), ribald sexual stories (Miller's Tale), drama (Everyman), autobiography (The Book of Margery Kempe), dream visions (The Lover's Confession; Pearl), and satirical allegory (Pardoner's Tale). We will end our semester with a reading of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, a lengthy tragic romance whose central concerns are love and death, and which combines the various medieval genres we have studied. In addition to this variety of texts and genres we will also attend to some historical and historiographic writing as well as some late-medieval visual art forms to help us to contextualize the literary traditions we investigate. Our approach will be various--historical, generic, formalist, cultural, and, most-centrally, linguistic. We will read selected lyrics, Chaucer, and Gower in Middle English, which we will learn early in the semester; all other readings will be in modern English translation or facing page translation where available. No previous knowledge of Middle English or medieval literature is necessary--but a willingness to learn is a must!

About the Professor Elizabeth Scala received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and was a Mellon Instructor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago before joining the faculty in the Department of English at UT Austin, where she is an associate professor and director of the English Honors Program. Her area of specialization is medieval English literature, with particular emphasis on Chaucer. She has published essays on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Morte D'Arthur, and "Pretty Woman." Her book on the structure of late-medieval English literature is entitled Absent Narratives, Manuscript Textuality, and Literary Structure in Late Medieval England.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. This course will be run in a discussion/seminar format that depends upon lively class discussion; therefore, attendance and participation are mandatory. Each student will do one in-class presentation this semester. There will be three paper assignments (3 pp; 4-5 pp; 8-10 pp) during the semester (20; 30; 40%), the last of which will be a research paper. The rest of the grade (10%) will be made up of daily classroom work (preparation, participation, attendance).


Marie Borroff, trans., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Patience (Norton, 2001) Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (NY: Norton, 1991) Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde (Everyman, 2001) Luria and Hoffman, ed., Middle English Lyrics (NY: Norton, 1974) Lynn Staley, ed., The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton, 20001) A Sourcebook of photocopies will be available from Speedway (in the Dobie) containing the following items: Sir Orfeo; The Allegory of Love; The Art of Courtly Love; "Sir Thopas"; "The Wedding of Sir Gawayne and Dame Ragnell; "Tale of Florent; "The Tournament at Tottenham; A Distant Mirror; Poetry and Crisis in the Age of Chaucer; Everyman; The Waning of the Middle Ages; "Old Age and Contemptus Mundi in the Pardoner's Tale; "An Evaluation of the Pardoner's Tale; and "The Trump of Death.


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