Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

Course No:  350:532
Index: 18024
Distribution Requirement:  A1
Thursday - 9:50 a.m. 
MU 207

Medieval Childhood

Stacy Klein

This seminar will provide a survey of childhood, parenting, and human development as depicted in medieval writings from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries. We will consider medieval “children’s literature,” textual accounts of child oblation and baptism, genealogies and ancestral records, familial structures and domestic spaces (both monastic and secular), medical texts dealing with conception, birth and nursing, foster-parenting as undertaken by animals and humans in medieval romance, hagiographical accounts of child martyrs, textual and archaeological records of infant mortality and child burials, and imaginative efforts to depict youth, adolescence, and smallness in medieval poetry. Throughout the course we will question the extent to which childhood and adolescence were recognized in the Middle Ages as distinct stages of human life and also examine popular tendencies to infantilize both the Middle Ages and its literature. Readings may include Augustine’s Confessions, Beowulf, Ælfric’s Colloquy on the Occupations, medieval medical texts, select Canterbury Tales, The “ABC of Aristotle,” Pearl, The Life of Saint Kenelm, Ypotis, Sir Gowther, and How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter, as well as essays on medieval childhood from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including archaeology, history, literature, material culture, and art history.

This course requires no previous background in medieval literature and will provide a solid foundation for students who may be asked to teach medieval texts at some point in their careers. Most of our texts will be available in Modern English translation. However, some course time will be reserved for introducing students to (or increasing students’ facility with) Old and Middle English.

Requirements: two short papers (10 pp. each) or one longer paper (20-25 pp.), attendance, participation, and brief class presentations.

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