IA399 — Saints, Sinners and Swords: Medieval European Literature — winter 2017–2018

Professor John Gardner

A204 Moench Hall
+1 812 877 8524


The class examines both major and minor works of medieval European literature, studying their development, context, and influence. It is not intended as a comprehensive or balanced survey of the topic, nor will we be reading exclusively well-known masterworks. Our goals are to improve critical reading skills (which have application far beyond the reading of literature), to gain a greater understanding of the medieval world and its continuing influence, and especially to read, enjoy, appreciate, and learn from the literature of the middle ages.


Many of our texts are translations, and since there is often significant difference from one translation to another, it is important to use the edition listed below unless otherwise stated in class.

Beowulf. Tr. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton, 2000.

ISBN 0-393-32097-9

Don't be alarmed at the original Old English / Anglo-Saxon text on the left-hand pages; we will be reading the modern English translation on right.

The Poem of the Cid. Tr. Lesley Bird Simpson. Berkley: University of California Press, 1957.

ISBN 9780520250109

The Inferno. Alighiere, Dante. Tr. John Ciardi. London: Penguin, 1954.

ISBN 978-0-451-53139-1

The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer, Jeffrey. Ed. David Wright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

ISBN 978-0199599028

This text is also available for use on-line from campus via this link, although you may find it easier to use the printed book, which is not expensive.

Miracles of Our Lady. Berceo, Gonzalo de. Tr. Richard Terry Mount and Annette Grant Cash. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1997.

ISBN 0813120195

This book is not in the bookstore and you do not need to purchase it; it is available for use on-line from campus via this link.

From off-campus, go to https://my.rose-hulman.edu/library, login, and then search for the text.

In addition to these texts, there will be numerous handouts distributed in class.

Class activities


An important part of this course will be discussion of the readings. I want you all to express your opinions during our discussions. If you participate frequently with insightful, useful comments, you will get a high participation grade. If you contribute occasionally, with comments that usually show some insight or independent thought, you will get an acceptable participation grade. If you rarely or never contribute to our discussion, or only make comments that are unhelpful to our discussion, you will get a low participation grade. I realize that in a class of this size it can be difficult for everyone to have a chance to say something every day. Strive to participate daily, but make sure you participate weekly. To the degree possible I will assist you by calling on students who have not participated recently with some of the questions that are listed in the daily homework, but ultimately participation is your responsibility.

You are required to attend all classes, and attendance is part of your participation grade. You are allowed four absences per term, including absences for illness, religious obligation, job interviews, etc. For each additional absence the participation portion of your grade will be lowered by 10% from what it would have been. Attendance will be taken either by me reading the class roster, by passing a roster on which you should sign your name, or in some other fashion. If you are present in class it is your responsibility to make sure you are counted as present. If unusual circumstances will cause you to miss more than 4 classes during the term please speak with me; you will need to be able to document the absences. Because participation is important, and since listening to and learning from the contributions of your fellow students is an important part of that participation, if you miss more than ten class meetings (that is to say, twenty-five percent of the term) you will fail the course unless it is due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the your control.

Participation is worth 10% of your final grade.


Relatively short written assignments. Unless otherwise stated, assignments must be your own work and should be done individually, not as group work in collaboration with others. Your work should by typed or neatly handwritten on a full-sized sheet of paper. Please double space all written work to allow room for me to write comments. If you are absent from class on the day an assignment is due, it will be accepted upon your return without penalty. Otherwise, late assignments will be assessed a ten percent late fee for each day late. The reason for this late fee is to discourage you from simply waiting until the assignment has been turned in by others, discussed in class, and / or returned to other students, and then using that information to complete the assignment without really fulfilling the assignment's objectives.

Assignments are worth 10% of your final grade.


You get to plan and do two different projects related to work(s) read in and/or out of class. At least one of your projects will be a traditional academic paper, about a work read in class, which you will submit to the RosE Portfolio to help RHIT maintain its academic accreditation, as well as submitting it in printed form on or before the due date. (Directions about how to submit it to the portfolio will be given later; it need not be submitted to the RosE Portfolio by the class due date.) Your other project can be anything of your choosing that relates to the medieval world in some fashion. Before doing each project you will submit a project description or proposal, about one paragraph long, by the deadline listed with the daily homework. If you need additional time to complete either project, ask for an extension at least a day in advance; do not ask the day it is due.

Here are some guidelines for the project that is an academic paper: Your paper should be between 750 and 1250 words long, typed and double-spaced (that’s about 3 – 5 pages.) Your paper should have a clear structure to it. There are many good ways to do this. Perhaps the most traditional is to begin with an introductory paragraph that states your thesis, that is to say, what the central idea of your paper is. The following paragraphs should offer your ideas, supported by textual evidence from the text(s) or other sources, that support your thesis. The paper should end with a conclusion that, if possible, points to the relationship between your topic and the text(s) as a whole or other related issues.

Your paper must be your own work, that is to say, you must be the author of your paper… to copy it in whole or in part from other sources or other authors without attribution is considered cheating. Although it is not strictly required, you will probably want or need to reference or make use of the ideas of others in your paper. I do not require that this be done in any particular format, but in doing so you should make sure that it is clear what ideas are yours and what ideas are from another source, and what that source is. You should do so in such a way that I could find the source and the relevant passage without difficulty. One good way to so this is to put quotation marks around anything you quote directly, and at the conclusion of the quote put the last name of the source's author and the page number(s) where the quotation is found. At the end of the paper, include a bibliography of sources cited where you give complete information about the source and how to find it. If you summarize a source rather than quoting it directly, introduce or conclude your summary with a phrase such as “Smith, in her book, Too Bad Beowulf Missed the Olympics, notes that…” and then give your summary. At the conclusion of the summary cite in parenthesis the page numbers of your source. Be sure to include the complete reference in your list of works cited at the conclusion of the paper. Note that you may elect to follow the norms of any style guide, such as the MLA or the Chicago Manual of Style, or you may simply format your sources as you wish, provided they are clear.

This project is worth 20% of your final grade.

For your other project you may chose from a wide variety of topics:

• You may write a traditional literary analysis paper

• You may analyze any aspect of a work of music, art, dance, theater or film related to the medieval world.

• You may write about some aspect of the the medieval world as related to popular culture.

• You may do any sort of creative project related to the the medieval world and / or the works we read in class.

• You can write a book review of a work of literature, history or literary criticism related to the medieval world. This is a great project, but if you chose to do this bear in mind that a book review is not a book summary.

• If you think of an appropriate topic that is not described above, I am open to good suggestions, but you must have your topic approved in advance.

This project is also worth 20% of your final grade.


There will be two tests; each will be worth 20% of your final grade. If you are allowed extra time or other accommodations on tests, please be sure to let me know well in advance of the test dates.

Academic dishonesty

Do not cheat. Cheating can consist of copying from another student during a quiz or test, turning in someone else’s work as your own, changing answers after a quiz, test or other work has been returned and then claiming they were incorrectly marked as wrong, using a book, cheatsheet or internet device during a test where such aids are prohibited, and many other things. I prefer to make cheating hard in order to deter cheaters, but some people find a way to cheat anyway. If I catch you cheating your penalty will depend on the circumstances, but it will be much more than simply an F on the assignment you cheated on; the amount your grade is lowered will probably make you want to drop the course. Some of the things I do to deter cheating (like seating students a comfortable distance apart during tests) may be obvious; others may not be apparent to you. I don't discuss all the measures I take to make cheating hard, because if I did it would make no difference to the honest students, and would only help the cheaters find a better way to cheat. So, to put it simply: don’t cheat.


This schedule lists what you should read and the work you should do in preparation for that day’s class. To put it another way, all assignments are to be completed by the start of class on the day for which they are listed.

Week One
Monday, 27 November Introduction to the class. There is no assignment for today, just come to class.
Tuesday, 28 November For today, you need to read part of a text that will be handed out on Monday, watch a brief video essay, and also listen to the following two songs, paying attention to all aspects of the lyrics, musical composition and performance. In class I will ask what you notice about each piece. It is important to listen to the clips below, and not other versions or recordings of these songs.
The first is Bob Dylan's 1965 recording of his composition Mr. Tambourine Man. Very little of his original recordings are available online. You can use this link to listen to it for free on Spotify, although if you do not have a spotify account you will be asked to supply your e-mail address and supposed birthdate. If you don’t want to do that, see the link below.
Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965, from the album Bringing It All Home.
If you don’t want to mess with Spotify, then here is Bob Dylan performing Mr. Tambourine Man at the New York Folk Festival in 1964. But, I strongly prefer that you listen to the later studio version at the first link.
The second piece for today was written and performed by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings in 1994: Dry Town.
You should also read stanzas 44–70 of The Book of Good Love, as handed out in class on Monday.
In addition, if you will not be offended by the profanity or brief violence present in the clips of the R-rated film that is the basis of the essay then here is a link to a six minute video on YouTube that is in many ways very similar in content to what I will be looking for in the projects you will do for this class: Burn After Reading — Beyond Stupid, by Yoann Casals. If you are offended by profanity or violence, then do not watch this video.
Thursday, 30 November Read stanzas 71–188 of The Book of Good Love, as handed out in class on Monday.
Friday, 1 December Today we will finish what we started earlier in the week, or do something else if we've already finished what we started. You may wish to start reading the text for next week.

Week Two
Monday, 4 December Read Lines 1 through 1250 of Beowulf.
Think about How is the character Beowulf introduced and how does this affect you as a reader? What does Grendel look like? What are his characteristics and how do we know? What do we know about him and what do we not know? Why do you think Beowulf insists on fighting Grendel alone and hand-to-hand, without weaponry? Do you find the fight scene to be exciting, anti-climactic or something else? What did you like and not like about today’s reading and why?
Assignment Find one word or a short group of words (not a proper noun, such as a character’s name) in the Old English text, that you can recognize. Write the word, its modern equivalent, and the line number where you found it, and bring it to class to turn in. This should not take more than 10 minutes. Be careful, since sometimes words in Old English end up spelled just like modern English words, but do not mean the same thing at all. Be sure to check the translation to be reasonably certain you have found a word that has only changed a little in the past 1000 years or so.
Tuesday, 5 December Read Lines 1251 through 1904 of Beowulf.
Think about What importance do you think Unferth has in the story? Look at lines 1417–1421 in our translation; how does word order affect your perception what is being communicated here? Do you have any thoughts about metallurgy in relation to today’s reading? How does the use of kennings affect you as a reader?
Assignment Find a kenning, write it, the line number where you found it, and the noun it is replacing, and bring it to class to turn in. (It can be from any part of the poem, including parts not in today’s reading, but you cannot use whale-road, meaning sea from line 10.)
Thursday, 7 December Read Lines 1905 to the end of Beowulf.
Think about What women or other female characters are there in this poem? How would you characterize their role(s)? What’s the big deal with litotes (a rhetorical figure in which a positive statement is replaced by the negation of its opposite)? What does it matter if I say: “His salute this time from the top of the cliff / was far from unmannerly…” [lines 1892–1893] instead of saying something like: “His salute this time from the top of the cliff / was indeed very mannerly…”? What is your reaction to the mention of slavery (line 2223)? What is your reaction to the textual lacunae around line 2230? How do you feel about Beowulf’s last wish? In your opinion, what is the effect of so much foreshadowing through the three parts of the poem?
Assignment Find one example of the rhetorical device litotes in the text, copy the sentence and line number(s). It does not need to be from today’s part of the poem, it can be from anywhere in the poem. Obviously, you may not use the example cited above. This is a written assignment; you will need to do it before class and turn it in during class.
Friday, 8 December Read? (There may be a short additional reading for today, depending on how things are going.)
Think about In what ways does Beowulf conform to the category of epic? Are there ways in which it does not conform to that category? What is the role of fate in this poem? Is there any evidence in the poem itself of oral transmission (as opposed to written transmission) of knowledge?
Assignment Name two things (besides slaying Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon) that Beowulf does right, or well, or which you would consider to be exemplary conduct. That’s the easy part. Now the hard part. What, if anything, does he do wrong, poorly, or in an unexemplary way? If you can’t think of anything, that’s OK, but try to think of something, like in the stereotypical job interview where they ask you about your weaknesses. (You are permitted to put the slaying of Grendel, Grendel’s mother and / or the dragon in this category if you can explain your reasoning.) This is a written assignment; you will need to do it before class and turn it in during class.

Week Three
Monday, 11 December Read Canto One The Exile from the Poem of the Cid (pages 7 – 44 in our edition.)
Think about To whom is the narrator sympathetic in the dispute between the Cid and the King? The description of the first battle is short; as a reader are you frustrated by this? What thing(s) do they spend more time depicting than the fighting? What different religions (or people of what different religions) are referenced in the text? How much money did the Cid get from Raquel and Vidas? How much does he win in the first battle (the battle of Castejón)?
Assignment Three-day-long Cid Scavenger Hunt! Before you start, bear in mind that literature is not a scavenger hunt! But I am doing this as a means of engaging with the text. Finding these things should simply be incidental to your reading of the text, not your goal in reading it. You should still read all of the assigned pages and think about all aspects of what they describe. We will use many of the items below as a springboard to talk about various aspects of the story and how it is told. There may well be more than one good answer to many of the items on the scavenger hunt.
Find at least 15 of the following in today's reading. This is a written assignment; you will need to do it before class and turn it in during class. If possible, please include page number (or line number if your printing of the poem does not have page numbers, or has page numbers different from our edition) to indicate where you found your answer. You may simply write the number of the item from the list below, and then your answer:
• 1 Someone giving thanks at a time when others would be cursing.
• 2 Something pagan.
• 3 A comment critical of the King.
• 4 Something representing innocence.
• 5 Another name / combination of words by which the Cid is called.
• 6 A deception.
• 7 A promise made.
• 8 A simile. [A simile is a figure of speech that makes an explicit comparison, for example, “The lightbulb was blinding as the sun.”]
• 9 A divine visitation.
• 10 Advice accepted.
• 11 A battle where someone is outnumbered.
• 12 An act of mercy (or at least depicted as merciful.)
• 13 Someone who doesn’t follow orders.
• 14 A reference to St. James.
• 15 Something that comes in groups of three.
• 16 A promise kept.
• 17 A partial forgiveness
• 18 A beard!
Tuesday, 12 December Read Canto Two The Wedding from the Poem of the Cid (pages 47 – 86 in our edition.)
Think about How does the Cid feel about the marriages? Why do you think the Cid agrees to them, and why does he arrange things as he does? You needn’t try to arrive at an exact figure now, but how would you characterize the Cid’s financial worth at this point in the story? How does the Cid treat people in the lands that he conquers, and why? How would you characterize the relationship between the Cid and the King, what changes do notice in their relationship and what do you think may have brought about those changes?
Assignment Day two of the Cid Scavenger Hunt!
Find at least eight of the following in today's reading. This is a written assignment; you will need to do it before class and turn it in during class. If possible, please include page number (or line number if your printing of the poem does not have page numbers, or has page numbers different from our edition) to indicate where you found your answer. You may simply write the number of the item from the list below, and then your answer:
• 19 Suffering caused by the Cid.
• 20 Something that is depicted sort of in fast-forward (sometimes referred to as summary, versus scene.)
• 21 A vow.
• 22 Someone with power over Church affairs.
• 23 A pardon.
• 24 The return of some characters we may have almost forgotten about.
• 25 A horse with a name.
• 26 An expression of great confidence.
• 27 A priest who kills.
• 28 Something odd about a marriage (or pair of marriages.)
Thursday, 14 December Read Canto Three The Outrage at Corpes from the Poem of the Cid (pages 89 – 139 in our edition.)
Think about Do you think the court case is tried in a fair manner? Why or why not? Can you group the characters into good and bad? Is there any middle ground? What points of view are used in this story and what points of view are lacking? What characters have agency [the capacity to act in a given environment] and what characters do not, and why? And what’s the deal with beards?
Assignment Last day of the Cid Scavenger Hunt!
Find at least nine of the following in today's reading. This is a written assignment; you will need to do it before class and turn it in during class. If possible, please include page number (or line number if your printing of the poem does not have page numbers, or has page numbers different from our edition) to indicate where you found your answer. You may simply write the number of the item from the list below, and then your answer:
• 29 Something frightening.
• 30 A lie.
• 31 A kiss refused.
• 32 Something hard to believe.
• 33 Something misunderstood, or taken the wrong way.
• 34 A sword with a name.
• 35 Something shocking!
• 36 An excuse.
• 37 A kiss accepted.
• 38 Someone dressing to impress.
• 39 Something misogynistic.
• 40 Another beard!
Friday, 15 December Today we will finish what we started earlier in the week relating to the Poem of the Cid, or do something else if we've already finished what we started.
There may be an additional reading or assignment for today; I’ll decide once we get closer to this date.

Week Four
Monday, 18 December For the texts of the Breton Lais that are currently attributed to Marie de France, we will use the translation by David Slavitt. It is available as a free PDF at http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/12022. If you have studied French and want to look at the texts in the original language, you will find them much easier than Beowulf. One free edition is at https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Lais_de_Marie_de_France.
Read For today read the Prologue, Laüstic, Yonec, and The Two Lovers.
Assignment This week you have only one assignment: write a good discussion question about any one of the Lais that we read this week. You may turn your question in any day this week. Your question may also be about the Lais in general. Don't forget that it needs to be a good question, and a discussion question, not just a question.
Tuesday, 19 December Topic statement due today You need to turn in a one paragraph statement describing the topic of your first project.
Read For today read Le Fresne, Equitan, and Guigemar.
Thursday, 21 December Read For today read Milun, Eliduc, and Bisclavret. (Caution: if you are afraid of werewolves, well, ha! you have to read Bisclavret anyway!)
Friday, 22 December Today we will read a Lay that in the past was attributed to Marie de France, but which is currently thought to have not been written by her. It is called A Story of Beyond the Sea. Unlike the previous translations we used, this one is in prose and about a hundred years old.
Vacation! No class until January!

Week Five
Monday, 8 January Read and think about For today read the following selections from Miracles of Our Lady (see the Texts section of this website for the link to the text.) Also think about the questions which follow each selection. And here are some questions to consider in relation to all of the stories that we will read: What image of clergy, of the Virgin Mary, and of demons emerges from this collection of stories? What is your reaction to the overt antisemitism present in several of these stories?
• Introduction (that is, stanzas 1 – 46, not the Translators’ Introduction, which of course you are also free to read, if you wish.)
What is this meadow like? Why might readers like a text, such as this, that’s structured as an allegory? Why might they not like it? In what ways does an allegory differ from other texts that we’ve read so far?
• Miracle 2 The Fornicating Sexton
What concerns do the monks have when they find the Sexton drowned in the river? What do you think of the arguments advanced by both sides in the dispute over the Sexton’s soul?
• Miracle 5 The Charitable Pauper
What different means of spiritual redemption do we see in these stories, and how does this fit in to that?
• Miracle 6 The Devout Thief
Why is the thief spared?
• Miracle 7 Saint Peter and the Proud Monk
This miracle has a similar outcome to miracle 2. How does it differ otherwise?
• Miracle 8 The Pilgrim Deceived by the Devil
Since suicide is a sin, why do you think the pilgrim believes the false Saint James? There are some aspects of this story that might be very embarrassing if they happened to an individual today; what is the Pilgrim’s reaction to his situation after the miracle has occurred?
Tuesday, 9 January Read and think about For today read the following selections from Miracles of Our Lady. Also think about the questions which follow each selection.
• Miracle 9 The Simple Cleric
Does any aspect of the characterization of the Virgin Mary here surprise you?
• Miracle 11 The Greedy Farmer
Here we have yet another debate over the soul of someone whose life was far from saintly. Does this debate differ at all from previous ones we’ve read, and if so how?
• Miracle 14 The Image Miraculously Spared by the Flames — Why is the church hit by lightning, according to the text, and is this explanation coherent with other events in the story?
• Miracle 15 The Wedding and the Virgin
What “reading” or interpretation does the narrator give to the actions of the groom after the marriage? Can you think of any others?
• Miracle 16 The Little Jewish Boy
In what ways does the narrator give a negative characterization to the boy’s father and a positive characterization to the boy? In what ways are the earthly and spiritual realms expressed in this story?
• Miracle 18 The Jews of Toledo
How is the scandalous action disclosed to the people, and how do they decide what to do about it? Meals are mentioned twice here. Why do you think that is?
Thursday, 11 January Read and think about For today read the following selections from Miracles of Our Lady. Also think about the questions which follow each selection.
• Miracle 20 The Drunk Monk
What roles or duties does the Virgin Mary assume or take on in this story? How might a cynical person, who does not believe in miracles at all, interpret this story or explain the account of the monk’s activities and perceptions?
• Miracle 21 The Pregnant Abbess
What conflicts are there in the earthly realm and in the spiritual realm in this story? Do any aspects of this story remind you of the Breton Lais of Marie de France?
• Miracle 22 The Shipwrecked Pilgrim Saved by the Virgin
What opposites can you find in this story? Why do you think Eve is mentioned at the end?
• Miracle 23 The Merchant of Byzantium
What is unusual about the loan arrangements? The lender states that he thinks he is being mocked. What do you think about this? What is the role of faith in this story?
• Miracle 24 (25) The Robbed Church (numbered 25 in some other editions of this book)
Do you agree with the punishments that are given to each of the thieves?
• Miracle 25 (24) The Miracle of Theophilus (numbered 24 in some other editions of this book)
How does the encounter with Satan compare with others you are aware of in literature, film or popular culture? In other miracles, Holy Mary is very quick to come to the aid of those who call upon her. Here she is much more reluctant. Why do you think that is?
Friday, 12 January Test one This test will potentially cover all topics from readings and class discussions up to this point.

Week Six
Monday, 15 January Convo Schedule Today our class will meet from 2:05 to 2:45. I strongly encourage you to attend the convocation speaker in Hatfield Hall from 11:05 to 12:30.
Read The General Prologue (starts on page 3 in our edition) from The Canterbury Tales.
Assignment After reading the first 18 lines in our translation, visit http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/gp-aloud.htm and read the corresponding text in the original Middle English and also listen to the recording of it being read with appropriate pronunciation. Then your assignment is to (1) write down any one word that has changed in spelling, but is clearly a word used in modern English, and (2) write down any one word that is clearly different in pronunciation in Middle English as compared to Modern English, but is identifiable or understandable by someone who only knows Modern English. You must indicate the line number for each. Write this assignment down and bring it to class to turn in.
Think about What is it that prompts people to go on pilgrimages, according to the Prologue? What information is included in the Prologue, and is there anything you might expect to find in the prologue, but don’t? Based on the Prologue, whose tales do you think you might enjoy most, and whose least? Can you think of any logical categories to group the pilgrims into, and what are they? What are the rules and the prize for their competition? If you were going to do a remake of this story set in modern times, what professions or characters might you use? Where might you have your pilgrims travelling to, and by what means? What might the rules and prize be?
Tuesday, 16 January Project One due date. The project one due date has been moved to Thursday.
Read The Knights Tale (pages 25 through 80 in our edition).
Think about Does this tale remind you of any other things we’ve read? What is your opinion of Theseus’ idea for settling the dispute between Arcita and Palamon? How you you react as reader to the long descriptions at the start of part III? Does Palamon’s prayer to Venus remind you of anything we’ve read in this class? How does the Knight, as narrator, deal with telling of Emily’s bath in the temple to Diana? What is the conflict in this story? In what ways can this conflict be resolved? What is Emily’s preference in this matter, and how (and when) do we know? Do you find anything funny in this tale?
Thursday, 18 January Project One due date. The project one due date has been moved to today from Tuesday.
Attendance is optional today but please don't skip just because you don’t have your paper done; if that’s the case you can turn it in on Friday. The only reason to skip is if you have elected not to read the tales for today. In that case you can turn it in on Friday as well.
Required Reading Everyone needs to read the prologue to the Miller’s Tale
Optional Reading under certain circumstances The Miller’s Tale, The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale, The Cook’s Prologue and Tale. These are optional since, if they were a film, it would get an R rating for adult situations and cursing. I would describe them as quite funny in a number of ways, but a bit coarse in places. So, if you think you're going to be disturbed or offended, you may skip them. Reading the Miller’s Prologue may give you an inkling of what follows.
Think about There are many ways in which the Knight’s tale and the Miller’s tale different. Can you think of any in which they are alike? Is there anything in the Miller’s tale which can help us understand anything about what Chaucer’s intended audience (his implied reader) might have been like? Is there anything ironic about Nicholas using the story of a flood to facilitate his scheme? How do notions of consent relate to the the Miller’s Tale (and also the Reeve’s Tale)? What characters in the Miller’s Tale come out better? Worse? In The Reeve’s Tale, how do you react to the use of vernacular language by our translator? (If you are a bit disoriented by it, reading those passages of dialogue fast may help.) Again, what do you think about the idea of consent in relation to this tale? Do you find this tale believable? Why or why not? Do you feel that any characters come out advantaged or disadvantaged in the end?
Friday, 19 January Read The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale.
Think about What do you make of the fact that the Wife of Bath’s Prologue is longer than her Tale? What images or perceptions of women is the Wife of Bath arguing against in her Prologue? Do you think her arguments are effective or not? How does she meet her fifth husband (Jankin) and how long after the death of her fourth husband does she marry him, and (most importantly) what relationship is there between the incident with his book and the rest of the prologue? Why do you think elves are mentioned at the start of the Wife of Bath’s Tale? Do you like the ending of the Tale? Why or why not? Can you find any relationship between the Prologue and the Tale?
Assignment! Based on her Prologue, as well as the tale that she tells and how she tells it, what three words would you use to describe the Wife of Bath? Bring them to class, written down on a sheet of paper with your name to turn in.

Week Seven
Monday, 22 January Read The Friar’s Prologue and Tale.
There’s no assignment or questions to think about for today (but if you think of questions as you are reading, please ask them in class) instead we’ll try something a bit different than other sessions in class today.
Tuesday, 23 January Read The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale.
Questions will be posted later
Thursday, 25 January Read The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale.
Don't be dissuaded by the long, theological preamble; the heart of the tale starts at the bottom of page 333 and is quite entertaining.
Questions will be posted later.
Friday, 26 January Topic statement due today: You need to turn in a one paragraph statement describing the topic of your second project.
Read The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue and Tale.
Questions will be posted later.

Week Eight
Monday, 29 January Read Cantos I – VIII [1–8] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions What reasons can you think of that make Virgil an appropriate figure to use as guide? How and why does the First Circle of Hell differ from the other regions described? Even though the Vestibule precedes the First Circle, its conditions are far worse; why do you think things are not laid out strictly in terms of increasing severity of torment? Are there any parts of the inscription over the gates of Hell (starting in line 1 of canto III) that you can recall seeing or hearing before, or that bring to mind other well-known phrases? How many different similes are at work in the passage starting on line 109 of canto III? Are there any specific passages in the cantos we read for today that strike you as especially poetic or key? If so, remember where they are so we can discuss them in class.
Assignment After reading just the First Canto, what film genre do you think The Inferno would best fit in to? By film genre, I mean Science Fiction, Action/Adventure, etc. Bring this written down, ready to turn in during class.
Tuesday, 30 January Read Cantos IX – XVII [9–17] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions We have seen plenty of Christian references so far in The Inferno. Have you spotted any references relating to other cosmologies, systems of belief, or cultural traditions? What elements or aspects of the text make it timeless and what elements date it? (Or: what could you understand without the footnotes and what would you need the notes to understand?) Thus far in the story are there any things that remind you of the way ghosts or spirits are conventionally depicted in movies and TV? Pay special attention to the section starting in line 97 of Canto XIV [14]; we will discuss it in class. And don’t miss the reference to civil engineers at line 11 of Canto XV [15].
Thursday, 1 February Read Cantos XVIII – XXV [18–25] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions As we progress deeper into Hell, what changes, if any, do you notice about actions of the condemned, of the demons, or of their interactions? The character Dante finds himself in a position of social privilege during his journey through Hell; how does this affect his interaction with those he observes? Where can we see criticism of certain aspects of practices of the Church in Dante’s time? Do you feel that the passage starting with verse 25 of Canto XXI [21] reveals anything about human psychology? Also, note the interesting names of demons starting in verse 119 of canto XXI [21].
Friday, 2 February Read Cantos XXVI – XXXIV [26–34] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions How do the horrors we see in canto XXVIII [28] and later compare to those seen earlier in Hell? Can you think of ways in which the passage beginning in verse 130 of canto XXX [30] could refer to the reader of The Inferno, in addition to Dante the character?
And Also We have seen a lot of figures more or less contemporary to Dante in Hell. We need footnotes to understand them, but a reader of Dante’s time would likely have not needed any such notes. If Dante were writing The Inferno today, can you think of one contemporary figure he might place in Hell? What would a fitting torment be for them? No, you may not do Hitler, because that’s the first one everybody thinks of. And you may not do me, either :) . I'm not making this an assignment for today, since we already have one, but remember what you think of because we will use it in small groups during class.
Assignment Having now read the entirety of The Inferno, what film genre do you think it would best fit into? Write a sentence or two explaining your reasoning. Bring this written down, ready to turn in during class.

Week Nine
Monday, 6 February Medieval Song, day 1
Your assignment for today is to both read and listen to the following selections. You may either read the text before listening to each performance, or after, as you wish. Please use the versions linked below.
Sumer is Icumen in, performed by The Hilliard Ensemble. Both music and lyrics are at
To see the lyrics (both in Middle English and Modern English) click on the words show more below the video.
Miri it is while sumer ilast, performed by Ensemble Belladonna. Music, as well as lyrics in Middle English, Modern English, French and German translations, are at
Ay triste que vengo by Juan del Encina, performed by Aquitania. The musical performance is at
I can’t find a good version of the lyrics online, so I'll make my own and send them to you.
Douce Dame Jolie by Guillaume de Machaut, performed by the harpest, soprano and anonymous host of the youtube channel La Harpe de Melodie, and by mezzo-soprano Clare McNamara. Performance at
Lyrics can be seen by clicking on the words show more below the video.
In Taberana Quando Sumus, from the Carmina Burana, performed by The New London Consort. The performance is at
and lyrics with translation are at
but do take a look at the lyrics in Latin to see the strong use of parallel structures that don’t show up as strongly in the translation.
Tuesday, 7 February Medieval Song, day 2
From the Downloadable PDF Troubadour Poems from the South of France, please read the poems corresponding to the following numbers: (note that these are not page numbers, nor pages of the PDF, these are the numbers assigned the poems by the editors of the collection.) 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 46, 47, 68, 78, 93, 95.
Thursday, 9 February Readings relating to medieval Arabic poetry from Andalusia will be handed out in class.
Friday, 10 February Project Two due date. This due date has been moved to Thursday of week 10.
Readings relating to medieval Arabic poetry from Andalusia will be handed out in class.

Week Ten
Monday, 12 February Readings relating to the Fox Fables of Berechiah ha-Nakdan to be announced.
Tuesday, 13 February Readings relating to the Fox Fables of Berechiah ha-Nakdan to be announced.
Thursday, 15 February Nothing to read for today! We will listen to some texts relating to the Dance of Death, and watch a relevant sequence from a film. The film has a couple of curse words in it. If for that reason you do not want to view it, let me know before class.
New due date for Project Two
Friday, 16 February Test two This test will focus primarily on readings and class discussions since the first test, however there will be some questions that will ask you to think about readings and discussions from before test one. You should be especially sure to study and be able to use literary criticism terms and concepts from the first half of the trimester.