358:304 Medieval Literature of Dissent

01   MW5   CAC   16872  SCANLON  MU-115

The Middle Ages is often thought of as time of simple piety and "quiet hierarchies." In fact, the period was often a time of great social upheaval and intellectual ferment. This course will survey a variety of English writings from 1350 to 1450, all of them concerned to one degree or another with the problem of dissent. We will begin with Piers Plowman, by William Langland, a poem firmly associated with radical social and religious reform for over two centuries. We will also look at the fragmentary record left by the Rising of 1381, later medieval England's one and only peasant revolt. This revolt used the figure of Piers the ploughman as one of its rallying cries. We will move on to the writings of John Wyclif and his followers, the Lollards, later medieval England's only heresy. After a look at some drama, we will finish with The Book of Margery Kempe, the very first autobiography ever written in English, and one of the very earliest works we know to have been written by a woman. Three papers (2-3pp., 2-3pp., 7-8 pp.) and online exercises.

Reading list:

Helen Barr, The Piers Plowman Tradition
James M. Dean, Medieval English Political Writings
Rodney Hilton, Bond Men Made Free
Anne Hudson, Selections from English Wycliffite Writings
Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe
William Langland, Piers Plowman (ed. Schmidt)

Mankind
Second Shepherd's Play