ENGL408B - Literature by Women Before 1800; Saints and Sinners, Virgins and Queens: Medieval Women Reading and Writing

“What medieval women writers?” you may be asking yourself; “were there any woman writers in the Middle Ages?”  The answer to that question is a definitive “yes.”  Despite male dominance of medieval learning, reading, and writing, women writers in medieval England made surprisingly powerful and influential contributions to literate culture, producing romances, lyric poetry, saints' lives, biography, literary and cultural criticism, personal letters, and accounts of religious and mystical visions. They wrote about adultery and holy virginity, unfortunate marriages and romantic love, spiritual ecstasy and problems with disobedient sons and daughters.  In this course we will examine texts that address all of these subjects, paying particular attention to the cultural circumstances within which medieval women read and wrote:  as theologians, mystics, cloistered nuns, heretics, urban and country housewives, royal advisors, and courtly ladies.  We will look at the ways in which medieval women used available institutional and textual traditions not merely to critique the prevailing misogynist thinking of medieval society but to comment on their place in that society and establish their own authoritative cultural voices.  Because medieval women writers are endlessly fascinating, they have also attracted the attention of modern playwrights and poets. We will look at some of these contemporary responses to medieval women’s work with words.  This course meets the Advanced Writing requirement for the English major.  Thus, in addition to class participation course requirements include class participation, short writing assignments posted to the course discussion board; two formal essays and several exercises accompanying their preparation, and a final (take home) exam. With a few exceptions, all readings will be in modern English. Interested students should feel free to contact the instructor if they have questions:  tcoletti@umd.edu.

Prerequisite: Two English courses in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.

Notes: Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Cross-listed with WMST408. Credit Only Granted for: ENGL408 or WMST408.