Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Medieval Performances

ENGL 225.301
MWF 9:00

This course takes as its premise the idea that medieval 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 recent dramatic and linguistic theory 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 fictive account of his 1407 trial; and The Book of Margery Kempe, in which a bourgeois housewife claims to "dally" with Christ and the Virgin, preaches without permission, and disturbs Jerusalem-bound pilgrims with her ostentatious spectacles of tears.

Requirements: participation, short written exercises and presentations, a final research project (15-20 pages). Previous knowledge of Middle English will be helpful but not necessary.

fulfills requirements