Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Medieval Authorship

ENGL 321.301
instructor(s):
W 2-5

This course is an overview of medieval English literature through the lens of medieval and modern theories of authorship. We will be reading classic modern essays on authorship by Eliot, Barthes, Foucault, and Benjamin, alongside fascinating fourteenth and fifteenth-century literary works: poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland, civic plays, trial records, saints' lives, heretical sermons, and chronicles of revolt. The goal of the course is to rethink modern critical assumptions about authorship and authority in light of medieval notions of the scribe, the patron, the actor, the commentator, the translator, the plaintiff and the mystic. Most of the readings will be in in Middle English, but no previous knowledge of medieval literature or Middle English is required. Assignments will include an oral report, weekly responses, and a 10-15 page final paper.