Medieval World Literature Senior Seminar

Over the past month or so I’ve tweeted about my senior seminar for English majors, and several people were interested in the course, so I’m posting a version of the reading schedule here. In many ways, it’s experimental, driven by my interest in theorizing “the global Middle Ages,” and I’m tackling some works of literature that I’ve never read before. So far, the class has brought about some excellent conversations.

Course Description
Literature from around the world between approximately 500 and 1500 (“the Middle Ages”) demonstrates human experience in dynamic interconnection, as people, texts, and other objects traversed the globe. In this course, we will read a selection of literature from diverse cultures of the medieval period. We will explore theoretical issues concerning “the global Middle Ages,” “world literature,” “translation,” and “literary history,” as well as class, gender, and race in medieval literature.

Week 1: Introductions
Selected Poems on the Phoenix

Damrosch, How to Read World Literature, Introduction & chapters 1-3
Check out the section “On Animals” (Book XII) in Isidore’s Etymologies and read what he says about a few animals
In class: The Medieval Bestiary & The Aberdeen Bestiary

Week 2: Manuscripts
9/2 Labor Day: No Classes

Selected introductory readings on manuscripts (provided in class)
Recommended: Bischoff, Latin Palaeography, “Introduction” & section A (1-45)
Meet in Adams Library, Special Collections for a hands-on lab with manuscripts.

Week 3: Around the World in A Thousand Tales
Damrosch, How to Read World Literature, chapter 4 (only 83-89 & 96-102)
Arabian Nights, Preface (vii-xv); Foreword (3); Prologue with frame story (5-18); “The Story of the Merchant and the Demon”, First & Second Old Mens’ Tales, & “The Story of the Fisherman and the Demon” (18-36)

Arabian Nights, Tales of “the Three Apples,” “the Two Viziers,” & “the Hunchback” (148-211)
Arabian Nights, section on “Early Witnesses” (353-55)
Recommended: Abbott, “A Ninth-Century Fragment of the ‘Thousand Nights’”

Week 4: Globalities
Read Heng, “Early Globalities” OR “A Global Middle Ages” and be prepared to report on it.
Arabian Nights, Tales of “the Christian Broker,” & “the Steward” (211-34); The Tale of Abu Hasan & Epilogue [not in our collection, will be provided by pdf]
Recommended: Reynolds, “A Thousand and One Nights: A History of the Text and Its Reception”

Akbari, “Modeling Medieval World Literature”
Damrosch, How to Read World Literature, chapter 5 (only 107-18)
Primary texts: excerpts from travel accounts by Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, & John Mandeville

Week 5: Freaky Gospels
Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Introduction & chapters 1-24

Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, later additions (chapters 25-end)
Hawk, “Biblical Apocrypha as Medieval World Literature” (draft)

Week 6: Satire & Wisdom
Thornber, “Why (Not) World Literature: Challenges and Opportunities for the Twenty-First Century”
Toledot Yeshu

The Alphabet of Ben Sira
Due: Midterm Manuscript Essay
In class: excerpts from Zhang Longxi, Allegoresis

Week 7: Visions of the Afterlife
Apocalypse of Paul

Apocalypse of Thomas
Fifteen Signs before Judgment

Week 8: Preaching
10/14 Indigenous Peoples’ Day: No Classes

10/16 (Monday classes meet)
Zacher, Preaching the Converted, Preface & Chapter 1 (Introduction)
Vercelli 4 & 7; Soul & Body I

Hawk, Preaching Apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon England, Introduction
Vercelli 6, 8-9, & 15; Blickling 7 & 15

Week 9: Trans-gressing Romance
Yde and Olive, Introduction & full poem
Due: Seminar Paper Literature Review

Yde and Olive cont’d

Week 10: Into Epic
Due: Seminar Paper Conference Abstract
In class: Present progress on your seminar paper so far

Shahnameh, Introduction
Shahnameh, Arthur George Warner and Edmond Warner’s translation of the introductory matter

Week 11
Shahnameh, 1-62

Shahnameh, 63-103

Week 12
11/11 Veterans Day: No Classes

Shahnameh, 104-41
Due: Seminar Paper Prospectus
In class: Present progress on your seminar paper so far

Week 13
Shahnameh, 152-73

Shahnameh, 174-214

Week 14: Sexual Subversion
Carol Lansing, “Emotional Order and Just Order” (from Passion and Order)
Johan J. Mattelaer, “The Phallus Tree: A Medieval and Renaissance Phenomenon”
“Vǫlsa þáttr”
Uncle Tompa Tibetan folktales

Week 15: Conference-Style Presentations


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