This course begins with an examination
of Anglo-Saxon poetry (BEOWULF and selected shorter works), a tradition that
combines powerful heroic, religious, and elegiac strains. From there we move to
the Middle English period where, through works which represent a variety of
literary conventions and genres (lyric, allegory, debate, mystical vision,
romance, drama), we can use these works as a window to explore the values,
attitudes, beliefs, and aesthetics of an age different from our own, but whose
influences nevertheless are deeply embedded in Western society. Representative
issues for investigation include the genesis of modern expectations for
romantic love, the development of chivalry, the shaping of misogynistic
discourse in Western culture, the influence of Christianity, and changing attitudes
Readings include (in order of discussion)
selected Anglo-Saxon poetry, BEOWULF, THE OWL AND THE NIGHTINGALE, selected
Middle English lyrics, PEARL, THE BOOK OF MARGERY KEMPE (selections), THE
MABINOGION (selections), SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, MORTE DARTHUR.
Class format is primarily discussion, but
lectures will provide ample foundation regarding medieval history, culture,
society, and literary conventions.
Requirements include two midterms, two
formal essays, some in-class writing, final.