Outlaws and Outcasts: Meeting the Other in the Medieval World
This course introduces students to medieval literature in English, spanning across a thousand years. The historical and cultural developments of the English premodern period have influenced literary ideas about everything from heroism to romantic love, from race and religion to gender and sexuality to the structures of the nation-state. We will explore a selection of texts, including (but not limited to) Beowulf, medieval romances like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The King of Tars, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s Othello, and Marlowe's The Jew of Malta to ask how these works define selves and communities, in-groups and out-groups. Who is included and who is cast out, and why? How do these texts define the self and the other? How do they draw lines between good and evil, orthodoxy and heresy, human and monster, and where and why do these boundaries become porous, problematic, impossible to maintain? We will read from Old English to modern English, and across a variety of genres including epic, elegy, romance, and tragedy. Assignments will include quizzes, presentations, reading responses, and a final paper.