Fall 2015

The following is a list of courses relating to the Concurrent Degree in Medieval Studies.  Please see the online schedule of classes for updated information.


Department of Classics

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Course and Section: Latin 155A
Times: Tu/Th 11-12.30
Location: 45 Evans
Instructor:  Bezner, Frank

The letter exchange between Abelard and Heloise is among the most famous literary works from the Latin Middle Ages. On the one side: Peter Abelard (1079-1142), illustrious intellectual, implausible monk, and condemned heretic; on the other: Heloise, his learned pupil, forbidden mistress, then wife and later abbess of his monastery. Reflecting on their shared life, the infamous couple writes a set of intriguing letters to each other, with topics topics including Abelard's long autobiographical letter on his misfortunes, Heloise’s confession of her sexual desire, and a number of more didactic and instructional treatises on the dignity of nuns.

In this course we will study this famous correspondence by reading significant portions from this rich corpus. Although our emphasis will be on reading and translating, we will always analyze and explore literary and stylistic aspects, intellectual and institutional contexts, and the dense web of political intrigue woven around Abelard. In addition to our main corpus, we will read extracts from related texts as the purported early letters between Abelard and Heloise, letters by Bernhard of Clairvaux, and some of the hymns and laments composed by Abelard for Heloise.

The course is open to students from all disciplinary backgrounds. Classicists will be given the opportunity to study some important (and relatively accessible) postclassical texts from one of the most vibrant periods, the so called “Renaissance of the Twelfth Century.”  Medievalists may use the opportunity to hone their Latin skills and/or study a much written-about text in the Latin original. For graduate students in the Medieval Studies Program: if you plan to take the course as fulfillment of the Latin (linguistic requirement), you will attend it as a senior reading course with the usual requirements (mid-term exam; final exam; short paper/research outline). If you plan to take the course as a graduate seminar, provisions for further readings will be made, and you are required to write a research paper.

All texts will be made available via b-Courses. For introduction and our background readings, students are encouraged to purchase Michael Clanchy, Peter Abelard. A Medieval Life (1999 (and reprints).


Department of Comparative Literature

Subjects of Desire: Exploring Medieval (Latin) Literatures

Course/Section: Comp Lit 212

Times: Th 2-5

Location: 263 Dwinelle

Instructor: Bezner, Frank

Much has been written on Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern vernacular love poetry, and the rich scholarly criticism on Latin love elegy, Troubadour lyrics, German Minnesang, or Petrarcism ranges from more traditional philological, literary, and formalist approaches to fascinating uses of gender criticism and psychoanalytic thought. Much less critical light, however, has been shed on the Medieval Latin side – i.e. on the prolific and somewhat implausible production of learned love lyrics and related prose texts that were written during the eleventh to thirteenth centuries all over Medieval Europe. 

In this course we will study this neglected and intriguing tradition by reading and analyzing known and unknown authors/texts such as Peter Abelard, Baudri of Bourgeuil, and Peter of Blois; poems from the Carmina Burana and the Arundel collection of Latin lyrics; and other related works by Andreas Capellanus, Alan of Lille, and others. Overall, the course hopes to become an intellectual laboratory, in which we develop reading strategies and critical concepts for these texts: How do Medieval Latin love poems function as literary works? How do they interact with classical intertexts (esp. Ovid)? What is their relationship to the rich and complex institutional, political, intellectual and social environment in which they originate (esp. the Church reform movement and the “Renaissance of the Twelfth Century”)? What springs from a close comparison with vernacular texts and the critical traditions around them: marked difference, unexpected similarities, or even common ground? And, finally, why were some Medieval Latin poems so attractive to modernist poets such as Charles Baudelaire? 

Although the course has a specific topic, it can be understood (or attended), in a more general sense, as a graduate-level introduction into the literary culture of the Latin Middle Ages: graduate students will be given the opportunity to study the aesthetic, material, discursive, institutional, and cultural dynamics of Latin literature written during one of the most vibrant phases of medieval literary history, the so-called “Renaissance of the Twelfth Century”.

All texts will be made available in the Latin original and in reliable translations; knowledge of Latin remains, however, a requirement. Students from all disciplinary backgrounds are welcome and the course can be taken as fulfillment of the Medieval Studies Medieval Latin requirement. The course is open to students’ interests and suggestions regarding the texts and secondary sources we will read.


Department of English

Research Seminar: Medieval Literary Thought
Course/Section: English 250/2
Location: 305 Wheeler
Times: Tuesday 9:20-12:30
Instructor: Justice, Steven

The medieval volume of the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism begins by saying that the years from the 1980s until their present (2005) has been "a golden age" for the study of medieval "literary theory and criticism." That is about right: whole bodies of sources in the grammatical, rhetorical, and exegetical traditions, sources unknown or too little and crudely known to literary scholarship, have been discovered, edited, placed, and cited: more wealth than you can easily manage or know what to do with. And the field has not, in fact, shown clear signs of knowing what to do with it.

This makes a golden opportunity for both research and ideation. (a) For research, because there is a massive corpus of materials and scholarly tools ripe for investigation but too little deployed, a circumstance in which real discovery is possible. The materials are not very systematic, and some of the tools are not obvious or well known. So one job of this seminar is to give you a handle on the materials and, especially on the research tools. (b) For ideation, because most of the big intellectual questions they raise have scarcely been broached--beginning with the question what it means to call this material "theory and criticism." So another job of this seminar will be to start finding and articulating these questions, and working out angles of approach.

This will be a genuine research seminar, not a reading course. The first weeks will offer an intensive introduction to research tools new and (mostly) old, and toscholarship old and (mostly) new, and it will begin to crack open the question of describing and understanding the premises and goals of rhetoric and of commentary. In those weeks, we will read in translation some of the most suggestive primary sources and get a sense of what scholarship has and has not done. We will probably use Dante's Vita nuova and/or Convivio as a heuristic point of literary reference. But the students will have begun the semester choosing a work (presumably a medieval one, and presumably one on which they have a settled interest in working) and an initial question, in relation to which they will be using this material and an initial idea for research. As the semester proceeds, our agenda will be set increasingly by the developing research of the participants. 

The two books ordered for the course (Minnis and Scott, eds., Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c. 1100-c. 1375: The Commentary Tradition and Copeland and Sluiter, Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric: Language Arts and Literary Theory, AD 300-1475) do not really represent the work we will be doing, but we will use them a fair bit. They are two recent anthologies of sources in translation, both based on exemplary scholarship. (Their footnotes and bibliographies will prove invaluable.) Unfortunately, both are expensive; I'll make sure that all library copies are on reserve. Most of our work will be with materials made available online and in the library, and with the participants' developing projects.


Introduction to Old English

Course: English 104

Location: 166 Barrows

Times: MWF 10-11

Instructor: Thornbury, Emily V.

Hwæt! Leorniað Englisc!

 In this all-new version of the course, you will begin to read and write Old English from your first day in class, while also learning fundamental principles of grammar and historical language change. As you progress in your knowledge, you will begin exploring the wide range of literature in Old English, including riddles, love-laments, heroic poetry, and exotic travel narratives. You will learn what to do about demons, and the surprising reason that pepper is black. (Hint: it involves snakes.) By the end of the course, you will be able to read most Old English texts with the aid of a dictionary. You will also have a strong grasp of the linguistic principles that still shape modern English, and will be well prepared for further study of modern and medieval languages.

There are no prerequisites for this course, and no prior knowledge is expected. Graduate students interested in Old English should contact the instructor: a concurrent version of this course may be taken for graduate credit.

Required Texts: Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English (8th ed.); a coursepack.


Department of French

Reading and Interpretation of Old French Texts

Course/Section: French 211A
4226 Dwinelle Hall
  Monday, 1-4
Instructor:  Hult, David 

Introduction to the study of medieval French language and literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Through a careful analysis and critical interpretation of certain canonical works (La Chanson de Roland; Béroul and Thomas, Tristan; selected lais of Marie de France; selected romans of Chrétien de Troyes; Le Roman de la Rose) we will study Old French language and some main dialects; verse and prose composition; theories of the oral tradition; editorial problems; and the material aspects of the manuscript work (including some work on codicology and paleography). Class will be conducted in English.

La Chanson de Roland
, ed. I. Short; Chrétien de Troyes, Romans; Tristan et Iseut, ed. P. Walter; Kibler, Introduction to Old French.

Additional information: No previous knowledge of Old French language or literature is expected. This course fulfills the Medieval Literature component of the historical coverage requirement.


Department of German


Course/Section:  German 273

Location: 282 Dwinelle

Times: T 2-4

Instructor: Rauch, Irmengard 

Study of the orthography, phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon of the earliest Germanic dialect with a sizeable corpus. The Indo-European origins of the Gothic language as well as the relationship with North and West Germanic are considered.  The cultural environment in which Bishop Wulfila translated the Scriptures in the fourth century is discussed. Very much alive as a prime research tool, newly discovered documents such as leaf VI of the Skeireins (found in 1955), leaf 188 of the Codex Argenteus in 1970, and the Gothica Bononiensis fragment in 2009, enrich the debate. No prerequisites.


History of the German Language

Course/Section:  German 270

Location: 282 Dwinelle 

Times: T 11-1

Instructor:  Rauch, Irmengard

Designed for graduate  and undergraduate students  interested in the external and internal history of the German language from prehistoric times to the present and its interchange with closely and remotely related languages. Genetic language processes informing the German language across time are illustrated through the interface with literary documents from ancient Cattle Raids though  Runic, Gothic, Medieval German and English texts, as well as excerpts from Luther’s era, Modern and Contemporary  German. No prerequistes.


Department of History

Graduate Proseminar: The Middle Ages

Course/Section: History 275B

Location: TBD

Times: TBD

Instructor:  Koziol, Geoffrey

An introduction to the historiography of medieval Europe, emphasizing breadth of coverage and targeted to basic frames of knowledge. The course is therefore geared to those whose first, second, or outside field is medieval history. Readings include works on early and later medieval Christianity, Christianization, monasticism, and heresy; social and economic history; political and institutional history (Merovingians, Carolingians, France, England); literacy and popular culture. Special attention is also given to ways one can read books and take notes productively. Requirements: 1) two assignments on individual readings; 2) class presentations; 3) one or two broadly analytic, formal essays (of the sort one would find on a written qualifying exam); 3) a longer essay applying a smalls set of supplementary readings chosen by the student to the core readings.


Department of Scandanavian

Grief, Mourning and Memory in Old Norse Poetry

Course/Section: Scandinavian 220 

Location: Dwinelle 6415

Times: TBD

Instructor: Heslop, Kate


Death, grief, mourning and memory are central themes in Old Norse poetry. In this course we will read a selection of eddic and skaldic poems for and about the dead, alongside other Norse ‘memory media’ such as graves, runestones, and funerary ritual.  We will also consider some mythological models for remembering – and forgetting – the dead, and the Christian memory-work of the cult of saints. Methodologically, the course is interested in the potential of a “history of emotion” approach (as adumbrated by Barbara Rosenwein, William Reddy, and others) to these texts. Do studies of emotion and memory have to obey Jameson’s injunction to “always historicize,” or can we draw on the neurological and psychological commonalities of human experience? What is the relationship between emotions in the text, and those of its audience? How are the poetic texts embedded in extra-textual commemorative spaces and practices? The course will explore various “emotional regimes” (for instance, gendered, pre-Christian, Christian), and enquire into the place of emotions in the Old Norse world and the role of memory and emotion in narrative.

Texts include the skaldic poems Ynglingatal, Eiríksmál, Sonatorrek, Glælognskviða, Geisli, and occasional verses by Sigvatr Þórðarson; heroic poetry from the Poetic Edda; and passages from Snorri’s Edda.

Prerequisite:  Reading knowledge of Old Norse or permission of the instructor.


Also of Interest:

Celtic Studies

 Irish Literature: 700-1800

Course/Section: Celtic Studies 138

Location: 283 Dwinelle

Time: MWF 12-1

Instructor: Walsh, Thomas R. (trwalsh [at] berkeley [dot] edu)

Short synopsis: From our earliest poetic texts to the last moments of the Gaelic order in the 1700s, Irish literature presents us with a vast wealth of material in a wildly diverse variety of genres. The design of this course targets the interests of medievalists, students of comparative literature, classicists, and anyone with a desire to read literature in pre-modern periods. My approach has the followings aims: 1.) to give students a solid grasp of the texts and their cultural contexts, and 2.) to introduce questions raised by scholarly methods both conventional and innovative.

Overview: This course will begin with a tight focus on the famous sagas of the Ulster and Finn Cycles as well as on the lyrical texts of nature- and praise-poetry in the early periods.  Students will find a panoramic view of the range of early Irish genres from history, genealogy, law, satire, and gnomic literature. Of particular interest to this course will be the translations of Greco-Roman epic in Irish, a topic that has attracted much recent controversy. As we move from the earliest material, the course will  incorporate later textual material from the middle Irish period; we will conclude with a brief section on bardic poetry as it comes to meet the fall of the Gaelic order in the 1700s.

Approaches: For literary purposes, we will ask probing theoretical questions: how does the literature in its early phases exhibit the techniques of oral story-making (so markedly present in the crown jewel of Irish saga, the Táin Bó Cualinge)? What theoretical models for analyzing these ancient texts have developed in recent thinking? What do we know of the role that women played as producers of these texts? as subjects of these texts? What controversies have  historians and scholars occupied themselves with? What value have these texts had over time? What value can we claim for them now?  Are they fun? How have other textual traditions (such as the Greco-Roman or Judeo-Christian traditions) affected the native texts? How does all this material contribute to our understanding of the meaning of early literature? Are terms like “lyric” or “epic” helpful or not to contemporary readers? How does early Irish literature “fit” conventional conceptions of what is “medieval”? Finally, what is the place of early Irish literature in our newly emergent conceptions of “World Literature” or “Early Comparative Literature."

Student work: Student work will include a few short quizzes, 1 short midterm and a final; 1 short paper (due mid-semester) and a term paper (due at semester’s end). In-class presentations will be used to stimulate discussion.

This course is taught in English; I welcome students from all disciplines, both undergraduate and graduate. The course will be presented as a series of lectures interleaved with inspiring discussion; there are no prerequisites.

Thomas Kinsella, The Tain: Translated from the Irish Epic Táin Bó Cualinge. New York: Oxford, 2002 (1969). ISBN-10: 0192803735.

Anne Dooley and Harry Roe, Tales of the Elders of Ireland. New York: Oxford University Pres, 2008. ISBN-10: 0199549850.

Riordan, Maurice. Ed. The Finest Music: An Anthology of Early Irish Lyrics. London: Faber & Faber, 2015

John T. Koch (ed.) with J. Carey, The Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe and Early Ireland and Wales. Rev. ed. Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-891271-09-1.

COURSE READER: Prepared by the instructor, this text will be available during the first week of classes.

Other material is to be posted on b-courses.

Medieval Welsh Language and Literature 

Course/Section: Celtic Studies 146A

Location: TBA  

Time: TuTh 2-3:30

Instructor:  Rejhon, Annalee

Course Description:

 A selection of medieval Welsh prose and poetry will be read with a view to learning to read the original language as well as to examining key themes in the literature; lectures will provide both grammar instruction and analysis of the works in their cultural and historical contexts.  The Mabinogion tales of Branwen and Maxen Wledic will be read as will selections from the early Welsh poetry of Taliesin and Aneirin and from the fourteenth-century poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym.  Selections will also be read from the oldest Arthurian tale in the vernacular, Culhwch & Olwen.  English translations will be available for all works read in the original Middle Welsh and in-class translations will form a normal part of each class.

Course requirements include a midterm and final examination. No prerequisites.


Celtic Mythology & Oral Tradition

Course/Section:  Celtic Studies C168

Location:  TBA

Times:  TTh  11-12:30  

Instructor:  Rejhon, Annalee

The course will examine the mythology of the Celts—their gods, goddesses, festivals, and belief systems—as it is reflected in medieval Irish and Welsh texts.  Following a short presentation of introductory material regarding the history and civilization of the early Celts, the course will begin with the early Irish tale known as The Second Battle of Maige Tuired, a core mythological tale that best exemplifies the pattern of mythological deities and belief systems that pertain to varying degrees in other Celtic tales.  These tales will include in Irish, the Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel, the Tale of Macc Da Thó’s Pig, Bricriu’s Feast, the Wooing of Etaín, the Dream of Oengus, the Wasting Sickness of CúChulaind, the Cattle Raid of Fróech, and the Táin, and in Welsh, the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, Culhwch and Olwen, Lludd and Llefelys, the Tale of Gwion Bach and the Tale of Taliesin, and the poems,  “What Man the Gatekeeper” and  “The Spoils of the Otherworld.”  All the readings are in English translation.

Course requirements include a midterm and final examination.  

Italian Studies

Seminar in Renaissance Literature and Culture: Ariostan Histories: From Romance to Epic to Novel

Course/Section:  Italian Studies 215 (2 or 4 units) 
Location:  6331 Dwinelle
Times: W 2-5
Instructor: Ascoli, Albert R. 

Course Description: Our aim will be to situate Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, the most widely read literary text of the sixteenth century, at a pivotal place within an array of literary, cultural, and socio-political histories.  Most prominently, from a literary-historical point of view, the Furioso may be situated within two genealogies that are often read in opposition to one another: the Renaissance recuperation of classical epic poetry in the Virgilian (and Homeric) mode through a filter of chivalric romance (culminating in Tasso and Milton), and the early modern passage from romance, novella, and other late medieval genres to what would become the literary genre par excellence in centuries to come, the novel (the first great exemplars being Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel and Cervantes’ Don Quixote).  The course will begin with a survey of classical, late medieval and early Renaissance precursors of the Furioso (most notably the Aeneid and Boiardo’s Innamoramento di Orlando) and conclude with some weeks dedicated to genealogical aftermath of the Furioso, above all in Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata.  The “body” of the course will, needless to say, be dedicated to a close study of the Furioso itself.  

Course Conducted in English.

Course Requirements: Students are expected to attend and participate regularly. There will be occasional in-class presentations and some shorter writing assignments. The principal assignment for the course is a research paper of ca. 6000 words (ca. 25 pages).  Topics must be closely related to the concerns of the course although they may focus on authors and texts not directly treated in seminar (whether from Italy or another national/linguistic tradition). Students enrolled for two credits will not write a final essay, but will complete all other course assignments, plus two shorter papers (ca. 5 pages) over the course of the semester.


Virgil, Aeneid

Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso

Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme Liberata and Discorsi dell’Arte Poetica

A. R. Ascoli, Ariosto’s Bitter Harmony

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing or consent of instructor.  Reading knowledge of Italian required.

Scandinavian Studies

Old Norse for Undergraduates

Course/Section: Scandinavian 101

Location: 6307 DWINELLE

Time: TuTh 12:30-2PM

Instructor: Bauer, Molly Jacobs

Course Description:

(Fall only. Old Norse 101B is offered in the Spring.) This year, Old Norse will be targeted at the undergraduate level for the first time. The class  will introduce students to the vernacular written language of Iceland and Norway in the Middle Ages. Class time will focus on grammatical lectures, translations, and close-reading exercises of Old Norse texts. By the end of the semester students should be able to read saga-style Old Norse prose texts in normalized orthography with the help of a dictionary. Assignments will include weekly translations, grammatical exercises, quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam. Regular participation is required.


Viking and Medieval Scandinavian

Course/Section: Scandinavian 123

Location: 160 DWINELLE

Time: MWF 12-1PM

Instructor: Bauer, Molly Jacobs

Course Description:

Viking and Medieval Scandinavia will explore developments and trends in the areas of social structure, trade and economy, religion, political organization, culture, literature, and technology during the Viking and Medieval periods (c. 700-1500) in Scandinavia. The course will cover the main Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands), as well as the broader region of Scandinavian influence (Finland, North Atlantic Isles, Greenland). Developments in Scandinavia will be contextualized against broader trends in Europe and western Asia. In addition to readings and in-class discussion, students will complete an independent research project.


Old Norse Literature

Course/Section: Scandinavian 125

Location: 235 DWINELLE

Time: MWF 12-1PM

Instructor: Crawford, Jackson

Course Description:

The famous Icelandic sagas are one of the most enduring literary artifacts of the Middle Ages. In this course we will read and examine the most famous of these sagas (including Njal’s Saga, Egil’s Saga, and many more), as well as works that strongly influenced them (such as the Saga of the Volsungs).

Books include:

1. Kellogg, et al., eds. The Sagas of Icelanders. Penguin Classics
2. Cook, Robert, trans. Njal’s Saga. Penguin Classics.


Beginning Modern Icelandic

Course/Section: Icelandic 1A

Location: 6415 DWINELLE

Time: MWF 9-10AM

Instructor: Crawford, Jackson

Course Description:

This course in conversational Modern Icelandic is being taught for the first time on the Berkeley campus in Fall 2015. Instructor Jackson Crawford will be offering the first part of the two-semester sequence in Fall and the second semester in Spring. This is a rare opportunity (unique inn the entire country) to study the language of the land of fire and ice set in the middle of the North Atlantic amid towering mountain crags and the aurora borealis. Icelandic is a very conservative language, preserving much of the character of Old Norse, while remaining very much the tongue of a unique nation participating fully in the modern world. The literature, both medieval and modern, is unbeatable.