Medieval Lit: Medieval Hybridity

ENGL 4230, Medieval Literature

Medieval Hybridity

When you think "medieval," do you think soaring cathedrals and stately castles, or stone gargoyles and grotesques frolicking in page margins? In this class, we'll focus on the latter: the aesthetic of the hybrid, the monstrous, and the grotesque that much medieval literature sets in opposition to -- or does it? -- ideals of unity, cohesion, and singularity. We will read imaginative narrative literature from a number of popular medieval genres (romances, travel narratives, saints' lives), examine medieval manuscripts that depict far-fetched hybrid creatures, and consider the functions of hybridity in medieval literature. Texts will range from Marie de France's Lais to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to the Luttrell Psalter.


Expect to learn to read Middle English well (we'll dedicate plenty of class time to that task), to consider the nuances of medieval genres, to become familiar with medieval manuscripts, and to analyze and critique secondary literature (again, we'll practice in class). Assessment will include short weekly writes, worksheet assignments, short essays, and a final portfolio of revised work. Language instruction will begin on the first day of class. A strict but not draconian attendance policy will be in place.


Book List

  • The Lais of Marie de France, trans. Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante. ISBN: 978-0801020315
  • The Middle English Breton Lais, ed. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisury. ISBN: 1-879288-62-1
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. Paul Battles. ISBN: 978-1-55481-019-2
  • The Book of John Mandeville, ed. Tamarah Kohanski and David Benson. ISNB: 978-1580441131 (Amazon might say it's unavailable/expensive; they're wrong. It will be no more than $25 through the bookstore, and you might be able to find reasonable used copies through other online vendors.)
  • Jean d'Arras, Melusine; or, The Noble History of Lusignan. Trans. Donald Maddox and Sara Sturm-Maddox. ISBN: 978-0271054155 you must have a paper version of this text, not the etext.
  • Additional material will be provided via online links and/or PDF files; please budget for printing costs.


Image taken from British Library, Add. MS 42130, the Luttrell Psalter, fol. 161v. Grotesques frolic in the margins of the biblical Book of Psalms.

Semesters taught: