ENGL407: Medieval Women Writers

Course Syllabus for "ENGL407: Medieval Women Writers"

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Scholarship on medieval women writers is a somewhat recent phenomenon, in part because we know relatively little about men of the Middle Ages—and what we know about women from the period is even more limited.  In this course, we will engage this new frontier in literary studies by examining the writings of a diverse group of medieval women—from reclusive anchoresses to aristocratic women of the court—and analyzing the perceptions of reality, both secular and religious, that they present.  We will also read and respond to a number of critical essays concerning medieval women and the various debates that have emerged in the study of their works. We will begin the course with a unit on context, acquainting ourselves with the major socio-historical developments that shaped the period as well as the little that is known about medieval women and their roles in society.  We will then take a look at some major feminist and gender/sex-related approaches to literature, making their various methods and beliefs available to us as we progress through the course. The remainder of the course has been divided into two major units: women of the Church, and women of the secular world.  In each of these units, we will perform close readings of women-authored texts, examining their styles, techniques, and representations of the world around them.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain Medievalism as both a historical period and a movement in literature and the arts.
  • Provide an account of the role of women in the Middle Ages.
  • Explain the general intellectual climate of the Middle Ages.
  • Explain the significance of the Fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Explain the importance of Medieval oral traditions, the rise of literacy, cultures of chivalry, courtly love, Scholasticism, and the Church.
  • Describe the lives of Medieval women, wives, virgins, lovers, and mothers.
  • Explain the relationship between Medieval women and the Church in terms of theology, emerging religious communities, persecution, nunnery, scripture, hagiography, martyrdom, and sainthood.
  • Discuss Medieval concepts of gender and sexuality.
  • Explain the notion of “secular female authorship.”
  • Describe Medieval class structure and especially the nature of aristocratic and working-class women in the Middle Ages.
  • Identify and describe the formal and structural conventions of the Medieval lay.
  • Detail the themes of love, desire, romance, marriage, widowhood, and literary self-expression in the Medieval text.
  • Describe the major tenets, ideals, and ideas investigated in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (and especially from the perspective of women in this complex text).

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:
√    Have access to a computer.
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
√    Be competent in the English language.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.