Medieval British Lit

The
medieval literature course must over an enormous time-span, from the very
beginnings of English literature in the seventh century up to the dawn of the
Renaissance in the fifteenth.  The
literature of this nearly thousand-year period is both rich and diverse, and it
is also both unfamiliar to most modern students and different in significant
ways from more modern literature.  In
other words, there is a lot to study here and a great deal to learn, and within
the limits of a one-semester course, all we can do is present the
highlights.  The highlights are very
bright indeed: we will read the Old English epic Beowulf together with a historical text and a group of shorter
poems from the same period; we will look at the allegories of Pearl and Piers Plowman, and we will read a selection of Arthurian
literature, including Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight
, the Alliterative Morte
Arthure
, and as an example of a French Arthurian work that was translated
into Middle English, Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain.  Each work, each type, poses a different
challenge, but the sum is an enormous variety of great interest and
fascination.  Except for a few lyrics that
we will look at in Middle English, all works will be presented in modern
English translation.

Course Requirements

  • Attendance and preparation for each class
  • Three papers, 5-6 pages each
  • At least three shorter “reaction” paper
  • A mid-term and a final