This course applies towards the English major's Medieval Literature Specialization.
This course will survey a spectrum of medieval literature from the thematic vantage of belonging and exclusion. We will explore, across texts and time, how early literature draws boundaries between “us” and “them,” and how those boundaries are almost constantly breaking down. We shall delve into the ways that the "exclusions" medieval texts strive to enforce simultaneously show signs of reluctance. What does this mingled eagerness and reluctance to exclude others suggest about the priorities, pleasures, and anxieties enjoyed by medieval readers and writers? In pursuit of such a complex question we will consider:
* how each text/author constructs characters as being “outsiders” versus “insiders”
* what motivations govern such designations
* how those very carefully separated identities blur into each other
* how authors and characters who perceive themselves as being “outsiders” strive to show that they really do belong to the communities that seek to exclude them
* how authors and characters seek to establish themselves (or others) as special—as somehow standing above the rest.
This course will require substantial reading in the original Middle English, frequent short writing assignments, and a final essay.