FYO: How To Look At A Manuscript

Course Description

Medieval books – handmade, unique, messy, beautiful -- were nothing like the mass-produced printed books you have on your shelf. What were books like in the Middle Ages? How were they constructed, written upon, decorated? How is the experience of reading a medieval manuscript – interpreting its layout, use of images, juxtaposition of texts – different from reading those same stories in a modern printed edition? In this hands-on FYO, we’ll use Hargrett Library’s manuscript collection and online digital facsimiles to understand how manuscripts were made and decorated, we’ll mimic the activity of medieval scribes to comprehend the labor-intensive nature of manuscript making, and we’ll study the interplay of text and image in one beautifully illustrated manuscript of a holy king’s life.

Workload and expectations

  • Regular and energetic participation in classroom discussion, events, and exercises.

  • Respectful treatment of the Hargrett library staff and the rare materials you will encounter there. This includes abiding by the library’s rules about food/drink and writing materials.

  • Weekly reading and online viewing assignments. Much of our course material will come from websites about medieval manuscripts and online digital facsimiles, so you’ll need regular access to a computer and a robust internet connection. Please feel free to bring your laptops and tablets to class!

  • Regular (short) written assignments – expect to write 1-2 pages about every other week on the course material. In some cases, these assignments will take non-written (or at least non-typed-up) form and/or will be collaborative projects done with your classmates.

  • Participation in, and writeups of, three Campus Events (as required by the FYO program). One event must be chosen from a list of events related to this FYO’s topic; the other two can be selected from the FYO website’s Events calendar or from other events around campus.

Want to look at some of the manuscripts we’ll be examining? Here’s a link to the king’s life (don’t worry: we’ll read the text itself in translation, in a modern printed edition) and one of the Hargrett manuscripts we’ll get to view. You can also follow my Twitter Manuscripts list for beautiful, funny, strange, and fascinating images from medieval manuscripts: https://twitter.com/ctcamp99/lists/manuscripts

Semesters taught: