Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Sex, Violence, and Women in Medieval Culture

ENGL 016.302
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

Long before the conflation of sex, violence, and the representation of women on MTV, medieval literature investigated the cultural function of this problematic trinity. Sometimes these investigations are shocking, bordering on the pornographic; othertimes they reveal a surprising sensitivity. Either way, these texts offer a surprise to the modern reader whose idea of the Middle Ages stems from Monty Python's antics (as entertaining as they may be). In this class we examine the various ways that this conflation informs a wide variety of writings by Chaucer, Boccaccio, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Chretien de Troyes, Marie de France, and a host of anonymous poets (all in modern English translation). The
course examines both the texts in their cultural contexts and their relevance to our culture. As we negotiate our way through the past, we will also strengthen our writing and analytical skills through a combination of didactic instruction, group practice, library work, and peer review. Except for the didactic work, the format of the class will be discussion.