ENG484H1F - L0101

Advanced Studies Seminar: Gender and Sexuality in Medieval Literature


Monday 10 am -12 am


I. Lister

E-mail: iona.lister@mail.utoronto.ca

Brief Description of Course

This course examines texts composed in or circulating around medieval Britain that tell us something about how people thought about gender and sexuality in the early days of English literature. As such, our readings will include not only works that were composed in English, but others (in translation) that were written down in Latin and French, and they will include ideas that originated in Greek and Arabic traditions. Throughout the course of the term we will read a wide variety of texts, including some that are canonical and others that are much lesser known. These texts will cover multiple genres, including romances, riddles, treatises on virginity, medical texts, legal documents, and obscene tales from the French tradition known as “fabliaux.” As we read these texts representing diverse genres and multiple languages, which span roughly 500 years, we will confront our preconceptions about gender and sexuality in the Middle Ages, exploring how such notions were shaped in medieval minds in the early days of literature in English, and we will think through how they can be seen both to mirror and diverge from the ways we conceptualize and speak about gender and sexuality today.

Required Reading(s): 

Required Texts:

  • The Lais of Marie de France, edited and translated by Claire Waters, Broadview, 2018.
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey. Troilus and Criseyde, translated by Barry Windeatt, Oxford World Classics, 2008
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, edited by Helen Cooper and translated by Keith Harrison, Oxford World Classics, 2008
  • Old English Poetry: An Anthology, edited and translated by Roy Liuzza, Broadview, 2014

Optional Texts (Also available in electronic form through PDFs or free online access):

  • The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, Volume 3, edited and translated by Susanna Fein, Medieval Institute, 2015. 
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales, translated by Nevill Coghill, Penguin Classics, 2003.
  • Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, translated by William Kibler, Penguin Classics, 1991.

First Three Authors/Texts

  • Early medical writings (distributed as pdfs)
  • Heroic tradition poetry (in Old English Poetry: An Anthology)
  • Sexuality in the Christian tradition (short writings distributed in pdfs AND in Old English Poetry: An Anthology and The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript: Volume 3)

Method of Evaluation

  • Participation (20%)
  • Short essay (20%)
  • Presentation (15%)
  • Final research paper proposal (15%)
  • Final research paper (30%)
  • Optional readings quizzes, for bonus points on the final grade