ENGL478M - Selected Topics in English and American Literature before 1800: Medieval Rhetoric and Literature: East and West

This is a comparative course, in which we will explore selected works from the continental West and the Byzantine East from the perspective of their making as a form of rhetoric and argument, that is, as a statement about a certain aspect of medieval life, culture, aesthetics, or metaphysics, intended to produce an effect on its society. We will begin by reading samples from medieval school texts, which gave students an extensive training in dialectic and rhetoric, then will move on to consider how the rhetorical and literary forms encountered in school were imitated, used, and transformed into mature rhetorical and literary creations, and in what way they serve as arguments about the world around them. The writings covered include Vergil and the Auctores Octo; Boethius; Homer and Heraclitus’ Homeric Problems; Aphthonius’ Progymnasmata and Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s Poetria nova; the Pauper Prodromos and Marie de France; rhetorical theory concerning the artes praedicandi (“arts of preaching”) as well as sermons by Bernard of Clairvaux and the Patriarch Photius; epic works, such as The Song of Roland  and Digenis Akritas; saints’ lives; and visions of hell and the afterlife, such as Dante’s Inferno and the anonymous work Timarion.


Two English courses or permission of department.