The century when England and France were at war with each other (ca 1360-1450) is also the century which witnesses the transformation of the English vernacular, the “mother tongue”, into a literary language. This course brings together texts in both French and English, on different subjects, in different genres, to explore the formation of English literary culture in this period. We will read some French courtly poetry, English lyrics by authors like Chaucer who were inspired by French models, and English poems of the so-called “alliterative revival” which seem to lay claim to a sort of “native” authenticity. We will consider what makes some of the great spiritual writings of the period (texts by Richard Rolle, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe) characteristically English, and we will try to recover some sense of what Middle English pop culture might have consisted of by reading dramas and popular lyric, and by listening to fourteenth century music. We will consider several longer narrative works (the Alliterative Morte Arthur, Lydgate’s Troy Book) to see how they operate to create a sense of self-conscious national identity. Finally, we will read accounts of the war itself and its major participants, from Froissart’s Chronicles to Christine de Pizan’s Poem of Joan of Arc, in order to determine the ways in which a century of constant military conflict created both national identity and literary culture on both sides of the channel.
Texts (this is not a definitive list)
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose (excerpts)
Geoffrey Chaucer, a selection of the shorter lyrics.
Anonymous, Alliterative Morte Arthur
Anonymous, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
John Lydgate, Troy Book
Julian of Norwich, Revelations
Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe
York Play of the Crucifixion; Croxton Play of the Sacrament
Jean Froissart, Chronicles
Christine de Pisan, Ditié de Jeanne Darc
A packet of theoretical readings, both medieval and modern.
Expectations: some previous experience reading Middle English would be nice, but is not required; if you have never read Middle English, be prepared to put in a few extra hours learning how during the first two weeks of the semester. French texts will be taught in translation, but with the original provided for anyone who reads French. Students will be required to present at least one oral report as well as taking responsibility for class discussion; two short papers, one longer final project, occasional shorter written responses.
Pre-Requisities: Two 200-level English courses or consent
of the instructor.
*Enrollment is limited to 15