Studies in Medieval Literature (Dream Vision)

In the medieval dream vision, an individual is led into a
symbolic landscape where s/he is offered a privileged vision meant to teach
some profound truth not fathomable from lived experience alone.  This dream world is structured to translate
abstract concepts into concrete form.  In
the spiritual visions, authors give shape, face and character to God’s
invisible realms, allowing the dreamer to peek beyond the cusp that separates
mortal from eternal existence. In Dante’s Inferno,
damnation is imagined, and in The Pearl,
the rewards of salvation are envisioned. In Piers
, Langland’s fantastic spiritual allegory interfaces with raw human
reality to ask where Truth lies in a world plagued with social injustice,
material self-interest, and hypocrisy. Langland’s insights still powerfully
resonate in the modern world. In a more secular form, the genre allows
Christine de Pizan, in her Book of the
City of Ladies
, an outspoken voice to criticize the misogynist views of her
day and to rewrite human history to give women their due as smart, virtuous,
and vital to the development of culture. The authors of the Romance of the Rose dissect the
intricacies of love, lust, and seduction, whereas Chaucer plays with the genre
for comic effect.

This course
includes some of the most important and memorable works of the Middle Ages,
works that encompass a broad spectrum of medieval learning, and richly
illuminate the period’s cultural attitudes.

REQUIRED TEXTS (in order of discussion):

“The Dream of
the Cross”

Chaucer, “The
Parliament of Birds”

Dante, The Divine Comedy: the Inferno


Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose

Christine de
Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies

Langland, Piers Plowman

CLASS FORMAT is primarily discussion, but lectures
will provide ample foundation regarding medieval history, contexts, and
literary conventions.


Two 4-5 page formal essays (10% each)                                 (20%)

8-10 page research paper (involving a short oral report)    (20%)

mid-term                                                                            (15%)

final                                                                                        (20%)

written reactions (not the first week)                             (15%)

Attendance                                                                                (10%)