Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG444H1F L0101

ENG444H1F   L0101   
Advanced Studies Group 4: Medieval Literature to 1450: Animal Encounters
Instructor: Prof. A. Walton

Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room TBA
Email: TBA

Brief Description of Course: This course will explore the diverse ways that animals figure in medieval literature, theory, and manuscript production. We will read works in a variety of late antique and medieval genres—from the anonymous Greek Physiologus and its translation into Old English verse, to the comical beast fable of Chaucer’s “Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” with riddles, lyrics, fables, bestiaries, and romances in between. While our course will focus on the literature of Western Europe, especially that of England, we will also look to ninth-century Arabic texts and to the rediscovery of Aristotle by Aquinas. We will ask a variety of questions about the way medieval literature stages animal encounters. How do the human-animal relationships represented in these texts challenge our familiar categories of identity and community? How do medieval representations of human-animal relations require us to think differently about the intersections of human and animal life? Considering these questions, students will engage in depth with medieval literary and interpretive practices. Along the way, they will receive an introduction to the growing field of literary scholarship called critical animal studies.

Required Reading:  Curley, Michael J., trans. Physiologus: A Medieval Book of Nature Lore. Second Edition. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2009.

Williamson, Craig, ed. A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

White, Terence Hanbury. The Book of Beasts : Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century. New York: Dover Publications, 2010.

Coursepack (texts will include the following: Lactantius’ The Phoenix; Gregory’s Moralia, in selections; Isidore’s Etymologies, in selections; Al-Jahiz’s Book of Animals; Old English poetry in translation, including Phoenix and Physiologus; the anonymous poem The Owl and the Nightingale; Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, in selections; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in selections; as well as other primary and secondary texts TBD).

First Three Authors/Texts: Physiologus: A Medieval Book of Nature Lore (trans. Curley); The Book of Beasts : Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century (trans. White); Lactantius, The Phoenix (in coursepack, trans. White).

Method of Evaluation: Critical essays; class presentation; discussion participation (no exams).

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