Fall 2022 Undergraduate English Courses

358:422 Seminar: Medieval Literature and Culture

01   CAC  MTH2   07922   KLEIN     SC-S124

Medieval Childhood and Human Development

This seminar is 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, Asser’s Life of Alfred, Ælfric's Colloquy on the Occupations, select Canterbury Tales, The "ABC of Aristotle," Pearl, 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.  Most texts will be available in modern English translation. However, some time will be reserved for introducing students to Old and Middle English.

Requirements: several short (2-3 page) papers, oral presentations, vigorous class participation, and one longer (15-20 page) paper to be completed in stages.