Romance Literature of the Middle Ages (LIT4379.01)

Sandra Simonds

While much literature of the Middle Ages is deeply religious, there is a large body of secular poetry from this era written in the vernacular. In this course, we will focus on early constructs of romance, chivalry, and courtly love. We will do this by analyzing anonymous songs, the English Breton Lays Sir Orfeo and the Erl of Toulouse, and Marie de France’s Bisclavret as well as 12th-14th century troubadour poetry from the South of France. This course will pay particular attention to the trobairitz (female troubadours) who are often overlooked in the study of Medieval literature. Using feminist theory and Claudia Keelan’s spirited translations of the trobairitz, we will be able to connect how constructs of romance, love, and gender are deeply rooted in medieval culture. This course should also give you a firm grasp in the history of manuscript culture, decoding visual texts, issues of authorship, and theories of variance and mouvance in their application to understanding texts from this time period. Finally, we will read two books by contemporary Trans poets (Of Mongrelitude by Julian Talamantez Brolaski and Feeld by Jos Charles) who play with language from this era in their work. Assignments will include both critical writing and creative responses.


Learning Outcomes:
Contextualize the texts and cultures of the Middle Ages.
Define key terms of manuscript culture, poetry of the troubadours and Middle English poems.
Critically analyze issues of authorship in the texts of Middle Ages.
Find secondary sources and apply critical theory to texts.
Conduct independent scholarly research in order to produce quality written work.
Engage with poetry through creative activities.



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students must submit a critical or creative writing sample (4-5pp.), as well as a paragraph explaining their interest in the course, via this form, by May 5, 2022. Students will be notified of acceptance into the class on May 10, 2022.
Corequisites: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings, Bennington Translates, and Poetry at Bennington events this term, commonly held at 7pm on most Wednesday evenings.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
F 8:30AM - 12:10PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

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