Fall 2016 Courses

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 English

Introduction to Old English

Course/Section: English 104
MWF 10-11
O’Brien O’Keeffe, Katherine

Description:  Canst þu þis gewrit understandan? Want to? “Introduction to Old English” will give you the tools to read a wide variety of writings from among the earliest recorded texts in the English language. What is there to read?  We will look at some of the best kept secrets in (Old) English—short heroic poems, accounts of war, poems of meditation and elegies, history, saints’ lives, and romance—and get a taste of the curious (recipes, charms, prognostications) as well as the humorous (riddles). To complement our work with these Old English texts we’ll be using on-line and library resources to learn about the material culture of Anglo-Saxon England. With these resources we will also experiment with deciphering the texts as they appear in their manuscripts.  While we work on language in the beginning of the course we will also be reading and discussing the texts. Once you are up and running with the language, the rest of the course will provide practical experience in reading and discussing Old English works on a range of topics: the portrayal of monsters, saints, and heroes, cultural identity and the problem of the Vikings, the composition of Old English poetry, and the search for Anglo-Saxon paganism. In-class discussion will cover questions of cultural difference, translation, and otherness.

No prior experience with Old or Middle English is necessary for this course.

Required work: Quizzes, mid-term assessment, final examination, daily class participation, a short paper, one or two in-class reports.

**Graduate students may take this course for graduate credit with additional reading and work. Please see the professor for additional information.

Book list: 

Marsden, Richard. The Cambridge Old English Reader. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pb.  ISBN: 978-1-107-64131-0 

McGillivray, Murray.  A Gentle Introduction to Old English. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2011. Pb.   ISBN: 978-155111-841-3        

Additional resources available on b-Courses.

Medieval Literature: Heaven, Hell and Fairyland: Visions of Other Worlds in Medieval British Literature

Course/Section: English 110
 215 Dwinelle
 MWF 9-10
 Thornbury, Emily V.

Description: This course provides a tour of otherworld visions and journeys in the literature of medieval Britain. After looking at some foundational texts from antiquity that influenced writers up to the present day, we’ll examine the geography of the afterlife (heaven, hell, and purgatory), with a particular eye toward understanding how these transcendent realms reflected the more immediate concerns of medieval authors. We’ll consider the physical connection of these places to the normal world, as well as the moral connection they have to human lives; we’ll also look at texts that depict other, less transcendent worlds existing alongside our own. After taking this course, students will know how to find the airport nearest to Purgatory, and what to do if they end up in the fairies’ country: they’ll also be able to analyze the classic motifs and meanings of otherworldly vision literature.

No prior study of medieval literature is necessary. We will read most Middle English texts in the original, while texts in other languages (Old English, Latin, Old French, Middle Welsh) will be available in translation.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

Book List:

 Borroff, Marie: The Gawain Poet: Complete Works; Davies, Sioned: The Mabinogion; Gardiner, Eileen: Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante; Treharne, Elaine: Old and Middle English c. 890–c. 1450: an Anthology. 3rd edition. 

Readings on bCourses

Literature and the Arts: The Deaths and Lives of Saints

Course/Section: English 170/1
 85 Evans
 MWF 11-12
 Thornbury, Emily V.

The paradox of Western sainthood is summed up by a phrase from Latin calendars: dies natalis, “birthday.” Marking a saint’s chief feast, the dies natalis celebrates the day of his or her death: death as birth will form one of the central threads in our examination of the literature and art surrounding holy people. Though our primary focus will be the Western Middle Ages, our study will begin with the early Christian period, and range up to the profound religious transformations that accompanied the discovery of the New World and the Protestant Reformation.
In this course, we will read classic works of hagiography—stories of the lives and deaths of saints—that formed a central part of the Western literary tradition, inspiring thousands of related narratives and creating tropes that remain important to this day; and we will also analyze the visual art, especially painting and sculpture, connected with the cult of saints. Central themes and issues that we will confront include the nature of the historical and the miraculous; imitation in art and life; and the value placed on human suffering. Though we will only be able to cover a small part of this vast tradition, students who complete this course will be well-equipped for further study of the literature and art on saints.

This section of English 170 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

Readings in Middle English: Middle English in Multilingual Manuscripts

Course/Section: English 212
 Hearst Field Annex B40
 MW 11-12:30
 Nolan, Maura

Description: We will be working paleographically, linguistically and interpretatively on multilingual codices of the thirteenth century, as well as thinking about the history of multilingualism in medieval (including Anglo-Saxon) Britain and the eventual turn to the monolingual codex and its relation to the rise of a canonical literary tradition in English. But the main focus will be on decoding the mechanisms, functions and effects of multilingualism in thirteenth-century books, in order to read those books as medieval readers read them--in the manuscripts! All are welcome as we work on Latin, Anglo-Norman, Anglo-Saxon, and Middle English texts (among others) in medieval manuscripts this semester


Medieval Literature: Continuity and Change in Thirteenth-Century French Literature

 Course/Section: French 112E
: MW 4-5:30 p.m.
: Hult, David

This course provides an introduction to medieval French literature, starting with some of the most important courtly works of the late twelfth century and tracing their adapations in selected major works of the thirteenth century.  Among the topics will be the nature and appearance of courtly poetry, the invention of romantic love, the transmission of Celtic themes in the matière de Bretagne, the legend of King Arthur and the myth of the Grail, the early comic traditions, and early theater.  Some work will be done on medieval manuscripts and the transmission of these texts (including a session viewing manuscripts in the Bancroft Library). Most of the texts will be read in modern French, but instruction in the Old French language will be included and key passages will be read in their original linguistic form.

Reading and Interpretation of Old French Texts

 Course/Section: French 211
: 4226 Dwinelle
: M 1-4 p.m.
: Hult, David

Introduction to the study of medieval French language and literature of the 12th and 13th 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.


Middle High German

Course: German 105
Location: TBA
Time: TBA
Instructor: Largier, Niklaus

In this seminar we will read and discuss a range of medieval texts where the reader encounters the construction, the imagination, and the experience of alien, fantastic, imaginary, sanctified, and abject worlds. Texts will include visions, courtly novels, and travel narratives. Questions will focus on the figuration of the foreign, the construction of borders and distinctions, the work of the imagination, and the function of the imagination of the alien. A preliminary reading list might include: Visio Tnugdali, Wolfram’s  Parzival, Hartmann’s Iwein, Mandeville’s travels, Herzog Ernst. Depending on student interest, we will finalize the list at the beginning of the semester. Students are encouraged to send me their ideas and to read Wolfram’s Parzival either in German or in English translation by the first week of class.

German Literature of the Middle Ages

Course: German 201A
Location: 282 Dwinelle
Time: Tu 4-7 PM
Instructor: Largier, Niklaus

This course offers an introduction to the major canonical works of medieval German literature: Minnesang, Gottfried's Tristan, Wolfram's Parzival, Hartmann's Iwein, and the Nibelungenlied. We will also discuss modern receptions of these texts and materials. No knowledge of Middle High German required.

History of the German Language

Course: German 270
Location: 282 Dwinelle
Time: Tu 11-1PM
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 prerequisites.

Old Saxon

Course: German 282
Location: 282 Dwinelle
Time: Tu 2-4PM
Instructor: Rauch, Irmengard. 

Introduction to a heterogeneous language which is unquestionably the most provocative of the major Germanic dialects in terms of language identification and language origin. Reading of the Latin prose and verse prefaces that serve as the keystone to the literary and the ethnographic setting of the Heliand as well as reading of selected fits from the Heliandand Genesis fragments, including the 2006 Leipzig find. Study of the isogrammar shared by Old Saxon with Old Frisian and Old English to the North, and with Old High German to the South. No prerequisites.


Italy in the Age of Dante (1000-1350)es

Course/Section: History 149B
: Miller, Maureen

The history of medieval Italy is one of vivid contrasts: of beauty and brutality, freedom and tyranny, piety and blasphemy. The great poet of the Inferno summons us to consider such contrasts in nearly every canto: how can such stunningly beautiful language conjure images of such horrendous violence? This course explores the world that produced Dante, Giotto, and Saint Francis. It first traces the emergence of independent city-states in northern and central Italy after the millennium, emphasizing the particular conditions and experiences that created this distinctive medieval civilization. We will then focus on the culture of these vibrant urban centers using the artifacts they produced to discover the economic, social, religious, and political tensions underpinning them.  Were the divisions and inequities of this society central to its creativity?  We will explore with particular intensity the relationship between religion and society.  Special emphasis will also be placed on analyzing material and visual sources: do they tell a different story than the written sources?  Requirements include midterm and final examinations in addition to several short essays based on primary sources.

Discourses and Practices of Peace in the Middle Ages

Course/Section: History 280B
: Koziol, Geoff

The point of departure for this class is the Peace of God, the movement between 989 and 1040 that may have been Europe's first great millenarian movement – or not; that may have been the first great popular movement in European history – or not; that may have been at the origins of French and Italian communes and the German Landfrieden; that may have been a crucial turning point in European political discourses – or may have been nothing of the sort. One reason historians have trouble deciding whether or not the Peace of God was new and influential is because they tend not to look deeply at rituals and ideas of peace and peace-making before and after the Peace of God. This course will therefore look at peace and peace-making in a wide variety of settings throughout much of the middle ages: for example, Carolingian ideas of brotherhoods and guilds; the use of legal pacts and conventions; peace-making processes and rituals in 12th- and 13th-century French cities; ideas of peace in early communes and Landfrieden; armies of peace as they develop between the 9th and the 12th centuries; and, very importantly, the centrality of formal institutions of the Peace and Truce of God in the Usatges of Barcelona (which have almost little to do with the Peace of God as first appeared). Secondary sources are in in English, French, and German. Primary sources are in Latin and English translations. One should have at least some Latin, though it is actually possible to puzzle one's way through the material without it. One needs either French or German, though preferably both.


Petrarch's Old Age

Course/Section: Italian Studies 215
: 6331 Dwinelle
: W 2-5 p.m.
: Ascoli, Albert R.

Reading knowledge of Italian and Latin highly desirable

Course Conducted in English

Course Description: Francis Petrarch has, more than any other single figure, served the emblematic purposes of those attempting to define the Renaissance.  If it is no longer possible to think of him (or anyone) as the “first modern man person,” we cannot deny his initiating role in both Renaissance lyric poetry in the vernacular and the Latin Humanist reclamation project, not to mention his early, influential contributions to characteristic early modern forms of representation (the sonnet sequence, the Triumph, the pastoral, the diatribe, both biography and autobiography, and, perhaps most notably of all, the epistolary collection).  This course will take as its loose focal point Petrarch’s lesser-known late gathering of letters, the Seniles, or Letters of Old Age, as we explore Renaissance conceptions of the human life span as these interact with the construction of cultural histories.  As is well known, the medieval-early modern concept of the shape of a human life differs considerably from our own.  From Dante’s “New Life” to Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man.”  From this perspective, Petrarch offers an exemplary “case” as he filters available classical (Cicero, De Senectute) and Christian (the Pauline “homo vetus”) discourses on old age, while grappling with the existential crisis represented by his own deterioriating body, the failures of contemporary medicine, and the struggle to find a life after death in the fame he hopes his works will bring him (as in the famous closing entry in the collection, his Letter to Posterity.  In closing we will look at works from the later Renaissance that ring changes on the theme of old age, including Montaigne’s Essais and Shakespeare’s King Lear.

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. 

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing or consent of instructor.  Reading knowledge of Italian and/or Latin highly desirable.

Scandinavian Studies 

Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 

Course/Section: Scandinavian 123
Location:  TBA
Time: MWF 10-11
 Wellendorf, Jonas

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.

Texts:  Judith Jesch, The Viking Diaspora (2015); John Haywood, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (1995); Gareth Williams, Peter Pentz, and Matthias Wemhoff, Vikings: Life and Legend (2014); A selection of primary sources in translation.

Prerequisites: None

Introduction to Old Norse

Course/Section: Scandinavian 101A
Location:  TBA
Time: TuTh, 3:30-5PM
Wellendorf, Jonas 

This 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. Old Norse 101B will be offered in the Spring of 2017.

Texts: Zöega’s Old Icelandic Dictionary (any edition) and additional texts to be announced by the instructor.

Prerequisites: none