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Instructor Class Description

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Miceal F Vaughan
ENGL 516
Seattle Campus

Topics in Medieval English Literature

Class description

For SPRING 2005: 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,” (i.e., “The Legends of Cupid’s Saints: Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale"). 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 classic works like the Romance of the Rose, Dante’s Vita Nuova, and Boccaccio’s Famous Women. After Chaucer’s Legend (and some of his other works), we will discuss his near-contemporary, Christine de Pizan, esp. her Book of the City of Ladies, and conclude with a discussion of the mid-fifteenth-century Legends of Hooly Wommen by the English Augustinian friar Osbern Bokenham. Requirements for the course will include active participation in seminar discussions, weekly short writing contributions (response papers), individual leading of seminar discussion on at least one text, and a substantial term paper.

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General method of instruction


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Class assignments and grading

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Miceal F Vaughan
Date: 03/27/2005