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Medieval Performances

ENGL 524.940
instructor(s):
T 5:30-8:40

All seats reserved for MLA students

This course takes as its premise the idea that literature is, by its very nature, a literature of performance, and, as such, depends upon a number of generic and cultural categories - law, revelation, sacramentality, confession, allegory, miracle - with which we might gain greater insight both into medieval culture and modern performance theory. With this idea in mind, we will read modern theories about performance and performativity alongside a wide variety of medieval texts written and performed between about 1200 and 1500: the "Second Shepherds' Play," in which a shepherd at Christ's birth steals a sheep and passes it off as his baby; Chaucer's Pardoner's tale of fraudulent relic-mongering; the "Mary and Joseph" play in which the Virgin is taken to court for adultery; Chaucer's prologue to The Legend of Good Women, in which the author-narrator enters into the pageantry of the God of Love's court and is interrogated by the God himself; the Lollard (heretical) anti-dramatic "Treatise on Miracle Playing"; accused Lollard William Thorpe's ficitive account of his 1407 trial; and The Book of Margery Kempe, in which a bourgeois housewife claims to "dally" with Christ and the Virgin and disturbs Jerusalem-bound pilgrims with her ostentatious spectacles of tears.