ENGL379N - Medieval Rhetoric and Litetuare

This course is designed to supplement the other medieval offerings in the English Department by examining readings from a variety of medieval genres, in the literary traditions of the continental West and the Byzantine East. Our goal will be to read medieval literature as the medieval person may have experienced it. Thus we will start with samples from medieval rhetorical school texts, then move on to consider how the rhetorical forms encountered in school were imitated, used, transformed, and/or subverted into mature literary and rhetorical creations and what they tell us about the aesthetic sensibilities, culture, life, opinions, aspirations, and social circumstances of the medieval reader. The writings covered include school literature (Vergil and the Austores Octo; Homer and Aphthonius’ progymnasmata), poetry (Pauper Prodromos and Marie de France); rhetorical output (the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux; the homilies of Photius and Symeon the New Theologian); epic (Song of Roland and Digenis Akritas); saints’ lives (St. Boniface; St. Constantine Cyril the Philosopher); and visions of hell and the afterlife (Dante and the Timarion).


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of the department.