ENGL 4290: Fifteen Ways of Looking at a Manuscript

Maymester 2015

Medieval books – handmade, unique, messy, beautiful -- were nothing like the mass-produced printed books you have on your shelf. Reading medieval literature in its original manuscript context is a multi-modal process more exciting than reading medieval poetry in a printed student edition, and this class will get you the tools you need to understand, appreciate, and even recreate medieval manuscripts. We might not make it to a full 15, but you'll be able to look at a manuscript as an aesthetic object, an economic item, an art form, a historical artifact, a material thing -- not only a repository of texts.

Using Hargrett Library’s manuscript collection alongside both online and printed materials, we’ll start the course by introducing you to manuscript study: how manuscripts were constructed, written, and decorated; different types of manuscripts (prayerbooks, scholarly texts, poetic anthologies); different types and functions of illustration and decoration; different uses and meanings of books in medieval culture. We’ll then apply this knowledge to several case studies: illustrated manuscripts of Old French and Middle English poetry in which the illustrations are as much a part of the “reading experience” as the words on the page. (You’ll have printed editions and, where necessary, translations of the medieval poetry to supplement the digital facsimiles we’ll be using.) Our capstone project will be to identify a real-live manuscript fragment from the Hargrett collection.

This will be a hands-on Maymester course, so expect sessions held in Hargret, collaborative activities inside and outside the classroom, the chance to make your own “manuscripts” (not just to read/write about them), and the opportunity to think about how the visual arts and literature are embedded in the material world. Assessment will include oral presentations, short written exercises, collaborative projects, and the manuscript ID project, and will be heavily weighted toward participation and citizenship.

No English prereqs? No problem! Majors from History, Art History, Fine Arts, Romance Languages, and beyond are encouraged to sign up. Please see Laurie Norris in the English Undergrad office (134 Park Hall) for permission, and/or email ctcamp@uga.edu for more information.

Want to whet your whistle for this course? Follow my Twitter Manuscripts list for beautiful, funny, strange, and fascinating images from medieval manuscripts: https://twitter.com/ctcamp99/lists/manuscripts

Please check the English department course listings page for time/room information.

Required Materials

  • Introduction to Manuscript Studies by Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham. We'll be using this text from Day 1, so if you don't pre-order a copy, please plan to purchase it from the bookstore.
  • Matthew Paris, The History of Saint Edward the King, trans. by Thelma Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. We'll be using this halfway through the month, so you will have a little bit of time to get a copy - but not much.
  • You will need a reliable internet connection - much of our reading and viewing will come from online resources and digital facsimiles. If you have a laptop or tablet, please plan on bringing it to class most days (charged and ready to go!)
  • You will also need a variety of office supplies, including but not limited to good pencils, high-quality black pens, a ruler, colored pencils and/or ink pens, and fine-nibbed blue and red pens. These will be necessary for our manuscript making, and you can always supplement your personal stash as we get to that part of the month.
  • Finally, please budget for printing costs - you will be required to print some materials.

Optional Materials

Image taken from Pierpont Morgan Library MS M.126, fol. 120r, an illuminated copy of Gower's Confessio Amantis. You're looking at Theseus, killing a dragon-like Minotaur, with Ariadne looking on.

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