FYO: Real Men of the Middle Ages

Cnut and Edmund Ironside, CUL MS Ee.3.59, fol. 5r

Course Description

What MADE a man in the Middle Ages? Wielding weapons or paying undying loyalty to a lord? Becoming a self-sacrificing lover or suppressing bodily desires? Governing one’s actions or governing the realm? In this odyssey, we’ll encounter a range of social positions available to medieval men – warriors and lovers, kings and saints – in texts like romances and saints’ lives. Because many of these texts were lavishly presented and illuminated, we’ll encounter some of them in their original manuscript contexts. We will also uncover the complications of male identities, particularly when those men occupy competing or contradictory roles.

Just as medieval romances focus on the "socialization" of men, so will we spend some time socializing you to UGA, university life, and academic expectations at this level. Most of your (short) weekly writing assignments will focus on time management, interacting with professors, managing your digital life, and similar issues. And, as with all FYOs, you'll be attending a variety of events around campus - academic and social - and reflecting on the kinds of communities these events encourage.


I will order two texts for this course; they can be purchased at the university bookstore. Other reading assignments will be available through the course website. If you wish to purchase your books elsewhere, make sure you acquire these editions:

Marie de France, The Lais of Marie de France. Trans. Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante. ISBN: 0-939464-02-0
Matthew Paris, The History of Saint Edward the King. Trans. Thelma S. Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. ISBN: 978-0-87798-389-1

Sample Grade Breakdown

(will vary by semester)

Attendance and Participation: 10%
Weekly Writing Assignments: 25%
Weekly Reading Journals: 20%
Attendance at, and Writeups of, 3 Campus Events: 15% (5% each)
Final Essay: 30%

Sample Assignment Schedule

Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Marie de France, "Lanval"
Week 3: Marie de France, "Bisclavret"
Week 4: Marie de France, "Guigemar" and "Milun"
Week 5: "Sir Orpheo"
Week 6: "Life of St. Alexis." Campus Event Writeup #1 due
Week 7: Introduction to Medieval Manuscripts; St Alexis in the St Alban's Psalter.
Week 8: Chaucer, "The Knight's Tale" I
Week 9: Chaucer, "The Knight's Tale" II
Week 10: Chaucer, "The Miller's Tale." Campus Event Writeup #2 due
Week 11: History of Edward the Confessor: introduction to academic texts.
Week 12: History of Edward the Confessor I
Week 13: History of Edward the Confessor II
Week 14:  History of Edward the Confessor in the manuscript. Campus Event Writeup #3 due
[Thanksgiving Break usually fall here]
Week 15: A Knight's Tale (2001, dir. Brian Helgeland)