ENGL 4230: Medieval Literature: Telling Old Tales

Unlike post-Romantic literature, which privileges the individual poet's novelty and originality, most medieval literature reworked older, authoritative stories from classical and contemporary medieval literatures -- or at least it claimed to, even when its authors were actually creating new tales. Rather than being derivative, however, these retold tales were carefully refashioned as independent adaptations, sometimes subtly responding to themes and problems in the original version and often using the weight of tradition to authorize the stories as legitimate poetic endeavors. We will read poems by anonymous authors as well as Marie de France, Chaucer, John Gower, and the Scots poet Robert Henryson to explore questions of literary authority, authorial self-fashioning, adaptation and translation practices, and intertextuality. Attention will also be paid to genre and poetic form, as these were important facets of literary influence and one-upmanship.
Required Texts (available at the University of Georgia Bookstore)

  • Geoffrey Chaucer, Dream Visions and Other Poems, ed. Kathryn L. Lynch (Norton, 2007).
  • John Gower, Confessio Amantis, vol. 1, 2nd ed., ed. Russell A. Peck (TEAMS, 2006).
  • John Gower, Confessio Amantis, vol. 3, ed. Russell A. Peck (TEAMS, 2004).
  • The Middle English Breton Lays, ed. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury¬†(TEAMS, 1995).
  • Robert Henryson, The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Robert L. Kindrick (TEAMS, 1997).
  • additional material will be made available online and via <emma>
  • As an English major, you ought to already own the 2009 (7th edition) of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. If you don't, you ought to purchase one. Earlier editions will NOT do, as citation format has changed substantially in the past 18 months. I have posted links to online material that will aid you on my faculty website, but they are no substitute for the details given in the Handbook.

Recommended Texts (not at the bookstore, but commonly available via online vendors)

  • Andrew Galloway, Medieval Literature and Culture (Continuum)

Semesters taught: