British Literature to 1800

If someone said, “I’m going to get medieval on you,” you’d probably recognize that as a threat. Robert Mills, author of a book on medieval executions, points out that nowadays we see the Middle Ages as a period of unenlightened brutality and violence. There is, of course, much more to the time period than death and torture…but there is a good bit of death and torture, too. In this class, we’re going to look at the dark side of the medieval and early modern periods: witches and witch hunts; ghosts; torture; plague; monsters; Satan and Hell; views of death and dying; executions by burning, drawing, and quartering; the spectacular martyrdoms of saints. This is the chance to find out about Saint James the Dismembered, who made speeches to his body parts as they were being cut off, and about what’s really going on in the MALLEUS MALEFICARUM (for instance, witches stealing men’s “virile members” and hiding them in birds’ nests.) We’ll read about pacts with the devil and necromantic sex with fairies. It will be fun!

The course grade will be based on

  • reading
  • class participation
  • small-group work
  • and three papers.

Texts will include:

  • Marlowe’s DOCTOR FAUSTUS
  • Shakespeare’s MACBETH and TITUS ANDRONICUS
  • excerpts from the MALLEUS MALEFICARUM and the GOLDEN LEGEND
  • and others

All books will be ordered through Revolution Books, and a course reader will also be available at Professional Image.