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MRST 110

The Gateway Course

2013-14: Winter Term

Dons & Dragons and Disillusionment:
Masterpieces of Spanish Literature in Translation

Explore the fascinating culture and history of Early Modern Spain and Europe through readings of select Medieval and Renaissance Spanish works in translation. Watch knights battle, while the Christians and Moslems also coexist. Laugh as the innocent pícaro is deceived but learns his cunning trickery to "succeed" in the end. Hear the colloquy of the talking dogs. See don Quixote-madman or sane?--tilt at windmills & right wrongs in a Baroque world of appearance versus reality. Witness the original don Juan meets his fate. Understand that Life is a Dream.

Through the principal vehicle of works of canonical works of Spanish literature (in translation), represented by the major literary figures of the day, we will approach the socio-literary realities of medieval through17th-century Spain, in particular, and within the context of Europe of that era.

Reading, analysis, and discussion of the works will be supplemented by lectures that might include:  the Christians, Jews and Moslems in Spain and the religious pogroms; key theological tennets; the rise of Protestantism and the Counter Reformation; the collapse of the empire on which ‘the sun never set'; the chiaroscuro of Spanish and European paintings; and, of course, the proverbial three dragons of the Spanish Inquisition (and censorship), the Church, and the chivalric Code of Honour.

Works include: medieval ballads; select short stories (Cervantes, María de Zayas); the picaresque Lazarillo de Tormes; select chapters of Don Quijote de la Mancha; the plays The Trickster of Seville and Life is a Dream.

Profesor Gwyn E. Campbell (Department of Romance Languages)

MRST 110 courses from Previous Years

2012-13: Winter Term

Heresy, Sex, and Terror: Nonconformity in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

This course explores the role of social, cultural, and religious nonconformity in medieval and early modern Europe. From Jews, Muslims and Catholic heretics in medieval Europe through the Reformation and great witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the discovery of vast civilizations of heathens in the New World, this course examines the experience of difference and persecution within medieval and early modern Europe. (HU)

Professor Rachel Schnepper (History)

 

2011-12: Winter Term

Giants of Italian Renaissance Literature

This course proposes an overview of some of the major literary and philosophical figures of the Italian Renaissance who have profoundly influenced Western thought and culture. The course starts with a thorough reading of Dante's Inferno, continues with selections of sonnets from Petrarca's Canzoniere, then moves on to a wide selection of stories from Boccaccio's Decameron and concludes with the reading of Machiavelli's The Prince and the play The Mandrake Root.

The readings and discussion will focus on the evolution of humanist thought, of literary virtuosity and philosophical concepts as embodied throughout the various genres and centuries represented by this particular selection of authors and works. It culminates with a full-fledged theatrical Renaissance type performance of Machiavelli's play The Mandrake Root in the Lenfest center.

Professor Domnica Radulescu (French)

 

2010-11: Winter Term

The Knight and Society

Throughout Western Europe, knights formed a distinct layer ("those who fought") of society between the eighth and fourteenth centuries. We will study the origins of knighthood, its mentality and complex codes, and how knights became a cohesive group that played a dominant role in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. We will retrace the lives of the knights and their cultural impact by examining historical documents, artistic representations and some of the texts that popularized chivalry (The Song of Roland, Marie de France's Lays, the Tristan et Iseut poems, and Chretien de Troyes's Romances).

Professor Frégnac-Clave (French)

2009-10: Winter Term

Pilgrims and Pilgrimage

This course explores the idea and practice of pilgrimage in Christian Europe from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Why was pilgrimage important and what did it offer early Christians? What made certain space sacred? And how did literary portrayals transform the significance of pilgrimage? Sources include first-person accounts and travelogues (such as the autobiography of the fifteenth century visionary Margery Kempe); saints' lives; visual art and architecture; and literature, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Langland's Piers Plowman, and Spenser's Faerie Queene. We will also study several popular destinations in Europe and Asia, including Canterbury, Compostela, and Jerusalem, and pay particular attention to how the representations of pilgrimage changed in Renaissance art after the Reformation. Medieval texts will be read in modern English translation.       

Curtis Jirsa (English)

 

2008-2009: Spring Term

Living by the Code: Honor, Love, and War in the High Middle Ages

This interdisciplinary course explores notions of honor and honorable behavior in the European aristocratic culture of the High Middle Ages. Through an examination and analysis of representative works of medieval literature, art, music, and architecture, we will study ways in which warrior and courtly codes of honor and conduct, the ethos of chivalry and courtly love, and conceptions of the feminine ideal were articulated, constructed and critiqued. The course will chart the transformation in court literature of the Germanic and feudal warrior (Hildebrandslied, Song of Roland) into the errant knight (Arthurian romances), whose quest is motivated by his love for the ideal woman. Readings will include Richard Barber's The Knight and Chivalry, The Niebelungenlied, Chrétien de Troyes's Arthurian Romances, and Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan.

Professor Debra Prager (German)

 

2007-2008: Spring Term

Trial, Torture, and the Truth

Verily, a merry romp through the history of orthodoxy, heresy, doctrine, blasphemy, rebellion, and all sorts of intellectual tom-foolery in Europe, ca. 1300-1600. Studying the Inquisition, as well as the representation of trial in literature, we will ask a series of questions about knowledge, power, and belief. How is it possible to know what someone believes? Is belief a personal or public matter? Can truth be reached in trial? Is belief authentic when coerced? Do institutions today still try to control our beliefs? Readings will include documents from the medieval and Spanish inquisitions, The Book of Tristan (Mallory's Morte D'Arthur), two Shakespeare plays, and the autobiography of an aspiring Italian Saint (Cecilia Ferrazzi).

Professor Genelle Gertz (English)

 

2006-2007: Fall Term

Chivalry  

This interdisciplinary course will examine how chivalry-with its social values of loyalty, courtesy, honor, generosity, and justice-emerged in the course of medieval culture to become a dominant institution. We will read first about the heroic code that developed during the early Middle Ages (the Nibelungenlied and the Song of Roland), then about the chivalric life of feudal Europe, both in Arthurian story (Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur) and in a romance of the Holy Grail (Parzival). Finally we will read two texts about how romantic love subverted and modified male-centered chivalry: Marie de France's Lais and Gottfried von Strasburg's Tristan. Periodically we will focus on how Westerners imagined Moslem warriors in combat with Western knights and how Western knights discovered the cultural integrity and worth of the Islamic world, especially through travel and military service to Islamic leaders. All texts will be read in modern English translation, except for Malory, which is written in early modern English.

Professors Roger Crockett (German) and Edwin Craun (English)

 

2005-2006: Winter Term

Western Encounters with the Islamic World:Events, Texts, Images

The Moslem attacks on southern France in the later eighth century, the Crusades, the travels of Western merchants in Asia and the Middle East, and Turkish conquest of Constantinople and the Balkans - these events sparked Western European communities and their writers to imagine Islamic cultures and their leaders from the eleventh century to the sixteenth. In a prelude, we will examine how the Arab world imagined itself, Islamdom, by reading tales from the great medieval story collection, The Arabian Nights. Then we will read an eye-witness account of the First Crusade and The Song of Roland, two early medieval narratives of combat between hostile religions and cultures. In contrast, we will read stories which celebrate those international activities which brought Christians and Moslems together: chivalry (with its code of honor), pilgrimage, trade, and travel. We will consider how they portray cultural differences and the cultural practices which may overcome those differences. Finally we will look briefly at the early modern resurgence of Western stories representing militant Islam.

Professor Edwin Craun (English)

2004-2005: Winter Term

Romance and Mysticism

This course explores Medieval and Renaissance understandings of love and the supernatural as they are rendered in the very different genres of romance and mysticism. We will study romance cycles by Chretien de Troyes, Malory, Marie de France, Tasso and Spenser, focusing on how they portray earthly forms of love as well as supernatural experience (encounters with dragons, sorcerers and fairies) in the course of adventure and quest. We will look for ways in which Christian values associated with piety either shape, or become undermined by, ideals of earthly love and magic as they are described in the romances. Alongside the romances, we will study religious texts such as Saints' Lives, the letters of the fated lovers Abelard and Heloise, and mystical writings by Julian of Norwich and Catherine of Siena to see how their representation of both divine love and pious living draw from some of the imagery and language of secular romance even as they reject its principles. Additionally, we will examine how some of the miraculous details of hagiography (the lions who accompany St. Jerome, or the dragon fought by St. George) appear very much in keeping with the spectacular and fabulous elements of romance.

Professor Genelle Gertz (English)

2003-2004: Spring Term

Western Encounters with the Islamic World: Events, Texts, Images

The Moslem attacks on southern France in the later eighth century, the Crusades, the travels of Western merchants in Asia and the Middle East, and Turkish conquest of Constantinople and the Balkans - these events sparked Western European communities and their writers to imagine Islamic cultures and their leaders from the eleventh century to the sixteenth. In a prelude, we will examine how the Arab world imagined itself, Islamdom, by reading tales from the great medieval story collection, The Arabian Nights. Then we will read an eye-witness account of the First Crusade and The Song of Roland, two early medieval narratives of combat between hostile religions and cultures. In contrast, we will read stories which celebrate those international activities which brought Christians and Moslems together: chivalry (with its code of honor), pilgrimage, trade, and travel. We will consider how they portray cultural differences and the cultural practices which may overcome those differences. Finally we will look briefly at the early modern resurgence of Western stories representing militant Islam.

Professor Edwin Craun (English)

 

2002-2003: Spring Term

Giants of Italian Renaissance Literature

This course proposes an overview of some of the major literary and philosophical figures of the Italian Renaissance who have profoundly influenced Western thought and culture. The course starts with the thorough reading of Dante's Inferno, continues with selections of sonnets from Petrarca's Canzoniere, then moves on to a wide selection of stories from Boccaccio's Decameron and concludes with the reading of Machiavelli's The Prince and the play The Mandrake Root.

The readings and discussion will focus on the evolution of humanist thought, of literary virtuosity and philosophical concepts as embodied throughout the various genres and centuries represented by this particular selection of authors and works. It culminates with a full-fledged theatrical Renaissance type performance of Machiavelli's play The Mandrake Root in the Lenfest center.

Professor Domnica Radulescu (French)

 

2001-2002: Spring Term

Culture Wars: England in the 1550s

Focusing on the turbulent decade of the 1550s, this interdisciplinary course will examine ways in which the English Reformation was articulated through literature, portraiture, liturgy, architecture and music. The course will begin with a more general survey of the ecclesiastical, institutional, and cultural histories marking the rapid successions of King Henry VIII, King Edward, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth (as well as some attention to the course of Reformation on the Continent); more specific engagements with central texts (such as More's Utopia, the Geneva Bible, The Book of Common Prayer, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, the mid-century love lyrics of Tudor Poets, civic dramatic cycles) will further prompt us to reconsider familiar distinctions used to define this cultural moment (such as medieval and renaissance, literature and history).

Professor Eric Wilson (English)

2000-2001: Spring Term

Giants of Italian Renaissance Literature  (see 2002-2003)

Professor Domnica Radulescu (French)

 

1999-2000: Spring Term

Chivalry  (see 2006-2007)

Professors Roger Crockett (German) and Edwin Craun (English)

1997-1998: Spring Term

Monasticism: Art and Religion From the Desert to the Cloister

From the beginnings of the Christian movement, groups of devout Christians gathered together in an effort to lead exemplary lives within a communal model more or less set apart from the secular world. In the New Testament Book of Acts, for example, that model required the sharing of all possessions in common and probably a shared worship life. Taking as points of inspiration the life, teachings, and sacrifices of Jesus, as later communal models demonstrate, believers might also embrace ascetic practices and more strictly ritualized behavior in the effort to lead a more perfectly pious life and perhaps to receive mystical revelation along the way to attaining the goal of every Christian, eternal salvation.

This course examines the motives for initiating the practice of monasticism, the goals set by adherents, the rites and practices observed in sacred spaces, the relationship between cloister and lay society, the theological underpinnings and implications of monasticism, and the artistic and architectural developments of the Middle Ages traditionally associated with the monastic movement.

Professors George Bent (Art History) and Alexandra Brown (Religion)

 

1996-1996: Spring Term

Contacts and Conflict in Europe and the Holy Land

This interdisciplinary course examines the cultural, political, and intellectual relationships between Western Europeans and their contemporaries in the Middle East from ca. 700 to ca. 1500. The distinctive world views of Christians, Jews, and Muslims will be examined in order to place into proper context the perceptions and interests that shaped public opinion, political policy, and religious doctrine in the Occident and Orient. Of primary concern will be the causes and effects of the Crusades, the lure of Jerusalem, the philosophical dialogue between Eastern and Western thinkers, and the unique interaction of faiths and cultures in Medieval and Renaissance Spain. Students will examine these themes through close readings of primary sources, both textual and visual.

Professor George Bent (Art History)