Medieval English Literature & Culture (Spring 2002)
2 credits; For Juniors and SeniorsMonday 1:40- 3:30
Instructor: Prof. Cecilia H.C. LiuLA 316 2903-1111 ex. 2560 (H) 2901-7317
     This course aims to acquaint students with the major literary works of medieval England. Through a close reading of selected Middle English literature--Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman, and medieval lyrics and plays--students come to some understanding of life and thought in the Middle Ages. Medievalism was a dominant influence in the lives of Englishmen, but the renaissance had assumed definite form and the country stood on the threshold of the modern world.
     The major texts are viewed within the framework of the techniques, of Allegory, the forms of Romance, and the theme of Courtly Love. Synthesis of ideas is stressed, especially in terms of the progress and development of early literary form and technique in later periods in literature.

Texts: The Norton Anthology of English Literature Vol. 1 (6th ed.), handouts, some videos, and texts from websites; David Wright, trans. The Canterbury Tales. London &NY: Oxford UP, 1985. Rowling, Marjorie. Life in Medieval Times. NY: Perigee, 1979.
Useful links:
Suggested Topics
1) Knighthood, Chivalry & Tournaments
2) Life in the Middle Ages:
Middle Ages-Clothing
Medieval/Renaissance Food:
3) English Architecture in the Middle Ages: Monasteries, churches, manor houses, etc.
4) Village Festivity, Feudalism, Public Power and Authority in the Medieval English
Countryside and
5) Citizenship and Gender: The lives of Medieval Women
6) Medieval Drama: English Mystery Plays, Liturgical Drama , and Traveling Troupes. and
7) Medieval Images/Logos:
8) Medieval Arts, Music, AlchemyˇK:
The one-semester two-credit-hour class will be internet-assisted so that students can go beyond the walls and boundaries of the traditional classroom. By using the internet, students will have access to many helpful sites on the World Wide Web about Medieval British literature and culture; they will be able to discuss freely with their classmates and me the texts that we will read for class; and they will receive specific and helpful instructions and materials that relate to the texts under discussion. I will also be able to include in the online site a variety of supplementary audio and visual materials relating to the Medieval period. Besides, this internet-assisted class will also include links to relevant online sites containing information related to Medieval British literature and culture, student comments from other classes about the texts under discussion, online essays and analyses, as well as general materials about Medieval literature.

Discussion Board: Each student as they read a given assignment will be asked to enter their comments, questions, problems, and insights directly on the website. Students read and respond to their classmates' comments, thus providing an arena for student interaction that will be more informal, more detailed, and more individualized than is often possible in the regular classroom setting.

  1. Regular attendance with preparation: Absences and lateness are strongly discouraged. 3 unexcused absences will constitute reason for failing this course. Three lates = one absence. No late papers.
  2. Class participation: Finish the assigned reading and be prepared to ask questions and discuss in class. Active participants will get extra credits.
  3. Discussion Board: One entry each week on the assigned reading/questions. Online you write a) what you think about the assigned reading b) any question you have about it c) your experience of visiting relevant websites and d) respond to /comment on what your classmates have written or discussed--questions, reflections, insights, etc. On 3/25, 4/29 and 5/27, you submit in the portfolio which consists of all entries you write for the discussion board. If you miss the discussion board, you write journals to replace it.
  4. Group projects: in-class oral presentation [not exceeding 20 minutes] on assigned topics (see the suggested topics above) about the background or critical analysis to our readings, and after the oral report, turn in a written paper a week later.
  5. Webpages: group project to prepare webpages related to topics discussed in class
  6. Occasional quizzes and a final exam.
*Grading Policy:
Group projects: Oral 15%       Quizzes and class participation 10%
Written 15%                            Discussion board entries/journals 20%
Webpages 15%                       Final exam 25%
*Tentative Schedule:
Feb.     25        Introduction: the Medieval England (video)
Mar.     4          Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400): The Canterbury Tales: The General Prologue
                                                       The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
           11        Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale (continued)
           18        Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales: The Physician's Tale
           25       Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales: The Nun's Priest's Tale
Apr.     1        Spring Recess!
            8         Langland (ca. 1330-87): Piers Plowman 254-59; 263-83
           15        Langland (ca. 1330-87): Piers Plowman 254-59; 263-83
           22        Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (ca. 1357-1400) Part I and II
             (modern translation:
           29        Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part III and IV
May     6          Medieval Lyrics: "Alison"; "I Have a Young Sister"; "The Cuckoo Song";
             "I Sing of a Maiden"; "Adam Lay Bound"; "The Corpus Christi Carol"
           13        Medieval Drama:
             The Chester Play of Noah's Flood
           20        The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Play
           27        The York Crucifixion
June    3          Malory (ca. 1405-71): from Morte Darthur
           10        Malory: from Morte Darthur
           17        Final Exam
Beadle, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. NY:
Cambridge UP, 1994.
Beckwith, Sarah. Christ's Body: Identity, Culture and Society in Late Medieval Writings.
London: Routledge, 1996.
Brown, Peter. The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early
Christianity. NY: Columbia UP, 1988.
Bynum, Caroline Walker. Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human
body in Medieval Religion. NY: Zone Books, 1992.
Carpenter, Jennifer, and Sally-Beth MacLean, eds. Power of the Weak: Studies on Medieval
Women. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1995.
Evans, Ruth, and Lesley Johnson, eds. Feminist Readings in Middle English Literature:
The Wife of Bath and All Her Sect. London: Routledge, 1994.
Davidson, Clifford. Visualizing the Moral Life: Medieval Iconography and the Macro
Moralities. New York: AMS P, 1989.
Diller, Hans-Jurgen. The Middle English Play: A Study in Dramatic Speech and Form. New
York: Cambridge UP, 1992.
Garbaty, Thomas J., ed. Medieval English Literature. Lexington, MA: Heath, 1984.
Gassner, John. Medieval and Tudor Drama. New York: Applause, 1987.
Kay, Sarah, and Miri Rubin. Framing Medieval Bodies. Manchester UP, 1994.
Leyser, Henrietta. Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England, 450-1500.
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
Lomperis, Linda, and Sarah Stanbury, eds. Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval
Literature. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1993.
Margherita, Gayle. The Romance of Origins: Language and Sexual Difference in Middle
English Literature. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1994.
Richards, Jeffrey. Sex, Dissidence, and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages.
London: Routledge, 1990.
Richardson, Christine and Jackie Johnston. Medieval Drama: English Dramatists. New York: St.
Martin's P, 1991.
Rose, Martial ed. The Wakefield Mystery Plays: The Complete Cycle of Thirty-two Plays. New
York: Norton, 1969.
Schell, Edgar T. and J.D. Shuchter. English Morality Plays and Moral Interludes. New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969.
Sticca, Sandro. The Medieval Drama: Papers of the third Annual Conference of the Center for
Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies. Albany: State U of New York P, 1973.
Taylor, Jerome and Alan H. Nelson. Medieval English Drama: Essays Critical and Contextual.
Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1972.
Wever, R. An Enterlude Called Lusty Iuuentus. The Renaissance Imagination Vol 2. Ed. Helen
Scarborough Thomas. New York: Garland, 1982.
Wickham, Glynne. The Medieval Theatre. New York: Cambridge UP, 1987.
Witt, Elizabeth A. Contrary Marys in Medieval English and French Drama. New York: Peter
Lang, 1995.
Woolf, Rosemary. The English Mystery Plays. Berkeley: U of California P, 1972.

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