How do medieval texts talk about the body? How do medieval bodies talk? This course introduces medieval literature and culture through the lens of “body talk.” We will explore gendered bodies and their voices in lyric poems and mystical visions and consider racialized bodies in romances and tales of travel. We will investigate how the circulation of literature on parchment, the processed skin of animals, gave rise to bodily metaphors for reading and writing and supported Church teachings about Christ as the Word made Flesh and the Lamb of God. Throughout the course we will consider how medieval texts speaks to modern issues. In a unit on consenting and non-consenting bodies, we will read Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale,” “The Reeve’s Tale,” and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” alongside modern articles on “pussy grabbing” and sexual assault on college campuses. At the center of the course will be the question: How do literary, social, religious, and medical discourses shape the way we understand our own bodies and the bodies of others?
Assignments will include two short papers, several short critical or creative exercises, and a final paper. During the semester we will visit the Rare Books and Manuscript Library at Van Pelt and see medieval books “in the flesh.”