Not everyone in the Christian Middle Ages quoted the Bible as a source of wisdom for salvation. Chaucer's Wife of Bath says the Bible justifies her having as much sex as she wants; after all, she says, "God bade us to wax and multiply." There are three attitudes at work here: the Bible's severity, the Wife's shrugging insouciance, and Chaucer's. Figuring out how to characterize Chaucer's attitude is itself a wonderful puzzle.
This course presents the Bible from the point of view of writers who made use of the story of gigantic story of Creation, The Fall, and Christian redemption. The goal is to introduce the Bible to those who have never read it before (and to give those who have read it before, the opportunity to read it again). We will read sections of the Bible from Genesis to the Book of Revelation and then some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The semester will conclude with five plays of Shakespeare, who sometimes drew on the Bible as a truth that custom had validated and sometimes as an argument to be weighed and pondered: Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, King Lear, and The Tempest. Requirements: One midterm, two short papers (5-7 pages), a final exam. Both the midterm and the final will be quote tests.
Texts: Zondervan King James Bible; Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, trans. Coghill (Penguin); Plays of Shakespeare: individual Pelican versions of Measure for Measure, Midsummer Night's Dream,The Tempest; for Hamlet and King Lear, Shakespeare: Four Tragedies, ed. T. J. B. Spencer (Penguin).