Miceal F Vaughan
C LIT 360
Explores topics in literature and cultures of the ancient and medieval worlds across national and regional cultures, such as particular movements, authors, genres, themes, or problems.
Medieval Legends of Good Women. At the end of the fourteenth century, the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer produced, among his last works, a collection of narratives he called 'Seintes Legende of Cupide.' Alternatively titled The Legend of Good Women, the collection contains stories about a dozen ancient women (and their men), e.g., Cleopatra, Dido, Thisbe, Medea, to mention a few. A close reading of the Legend reveals how Chaucer's late-medieval narratives about these classical heroines have been influenced by genres like the Christian saint's life and the traditions of so-called 'courtly love.' The tensions between the ideals of Christian hagiography and courtly romance lend a lively complexity to his stories, and to their interpretation. This course will attempt to define these competing ideals by discussing literary examples from ancient times: in the Old Testament (e.g., the books of Ruth, Judith, and Esther) and Ovid's Heroides -- through the Middle ages, with its rich range of saints' lives, retellings of Ovid, and influential works like the Romance of the Rose, Dante's Vita Nuova, and Boccaccio's Famous Women. After looking at Juan Ruiz's Book of Good Love, we'll turn to Chaucer's Legend (and perhaps some of his other works), and conclude with his near-contemporary, Christine de Pizan and her Book of the City of Ladies.
Student learning goals
Demonstrate a familiarity with a wide range of texts from the ancient world and the European Middle Ages representing women and revealing the variety of attitudes they inspire.
Recognize the similarities and differences among the texts, and the various cultures from which they arise: Ancient Judaism, Classical Rome, and Early Christianity; medieval France, Italy, Spain, and England.
Write focused critical essays on issues raised by the readings.
General method of instruction
None required; some familiarity with ancient and medieval literature/history/culture would be helpful.
Class assignments and grading
Requirements for the course will include active participation in classroom discussions and exercises, weekly short writing contributions (online), and two longer (4-5pp) papers.
Final grades will be determined by a relatively equal weighting of 1) participation in class discussions and exercise; 2) weekly 'response papers'; and 3) the two longer papers.