Fall 2019 English Graduate Courses

350:535 - Vision & the Problem of Mimesis in Later Middle English Writing

Course No:  350:535
Index # - 19009
Distribution Requirement:  A1
Tuesday - 4:30 p.m.
MU 207

Vision & the Problem of Mimesis in Later Middle English Writing

Lawrence Scanlon

This course will survey a variety of major poems and other writings from 14th and 15th century England, concentrating on the concept of vision and its paradoxical association with two antithetical representational tendencies. The first is vision as the surest medium for the reproduction of actual reality. The second is vision as the mode of spiritual transcendence. The second mode has long been taken to define medieval writing. While scholars have often noted the many instances of "medieval realism," they have almost always dismissed them as a mere curiosity. This course will look at the ways the two tendencies are inextricably linked, both for what it tells us about the literary culture of the period, and for what it tells about the semiotics of realism and mimesis more generally. In addition to the secondary scholarship specific to each work, we will also draw on three different conceptual vocabularies: medieval mysticism, medieval writings on optics, and modern theories of realism and of visual culture.

Requirements: One short paper in two drafts and a presentation.

Reading list:

Bernard of Clairvaux Sermons on the "Song of Songs." (selections)

Geoffrey Chaucer, Book of the Duchess

            Parliament of Fowls

            House of Fame

The Cloud of Unknowing (anon.).

Thomas Hoccleve, The Series

William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman (the B-text; ed. Schmidt).

John Lydgate, Temple of Glass.

James I, The Kingis Quair.

Julian of Norwich, The Writings of Julian of Norwich.

Peter of Limoges, The Moral Treatise of the Eye.

Roland Barthes, "The Reality Effect."

Frederic Jameson, Antinomies of Realism (selections).

Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage"

            selections from The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.

Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”

Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Visual Culture Reader.