Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Medieval Saints and Sinners

ENGL 221.920


We will be exploring concepts of sin, evil, holiness, and conversion in medieval England.  The richness and complexity of this literature on saints and sinners will bring up many questions for our consideration.  Can you really make up for a life of sin and become a good person? When is it a good idea to steal from a saint's grave?  Do women’s efforts to be holy differ from men’s?  Are certain classes like monks, knights and peasants more or less likely to get to heaven?  What happens when medieval Christians encounter members of other religions? 

Genres include romance, travel writing, biography, hagiography and history.  Some of our authors are Bede, Clemence of Barking, Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, Osbern Bokenham, and that most prolific of medieval writers, Anonymous.  Assignments will include two short papers, a brief oral presentation and a final exam.

Syllabus available upon request.  Please contact with any questions. 


fulfills requirements