Summer 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

358:309 Sex, Sin, & the Sacred in Medieval Literature

H1   7/12-8/18   BY ARRANGEMENT    11940    ALCARO, M.

Sex, Sin, & the Sacred in Medieval Literature


Think no one talked about sex in the Middle Ages? Think again! Between courtly romances, raunchy fabliaux, vernacular medical treatises, and penitential guides, sex and sexuality were a major point of concern not only for individuals, but also for centralized institutions like local legislative bodies and the Catholic Church. This course will explore these three concepts-- sex, sin, and the sacred-- and their points of intersection for medieval people. Broadly interpreting  the term “sex,”  we will explore issues of sexual and romantic desire; sexual acts and behaviors; medieval versions of gender identity; pre-modern scientific understandings of biological sex; the invention and value of virginity; love and courtship; and more. Texts will be mostly literary (both canonical and non-canonical) but will also include some excerpts from medieval and early modern medical treatises, religious texts, and a bit of modern literary theory. Primary text authors will include: Geoffrey Chaucer, Alain de Lille, Christine de Pizan, St. Augustine, Margery Kempe, Thomas Mallory,  John Gower, and Marie de France. We will pair these primary source texts with commentary and essays from: Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Robert Mills, and Carolyn Dinshaw.  While texts will be presented in their original form where possible, knowledge of Middle English is not a prerequisite for the course.