ENGLISH 280 - Thematic Approaches to Literature
Section: 001 Treasures, Relics, and Weapons: Medieval Literature and Material Culture
Term: WN 2010
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

Medieval artisans turned weapons of war — swords, axes, helmets, shields — into works of art, shaped from precious metals and adorned with precious jewels. In their turn, medieval poets devote pages to celebrating these objects, elaborating their meanings and affirming their social importance. Weapons are marked with blood, but they also carry aesthetic value and vital cultural meanings. Artisans also create objects meant for religious devotion; they translate biblical narratives into altarpieces and statues of God and the saints, aiming to inspire emotional responses. Christ and his saints are transformed into emblems of eternal life. And again poets enrich the meaning of these artifacts, creating enduring legends about the Grail from which Christ drank at the Last Supper, about the nails that pierced his hands and feet, about the lives of the saints whose bones rest near so many Christian altars. Archaeologists have in recent decades recovered piles of gold — jewelry, armor, buckles, helmets, reliquaries — from medieval burial grounds, gorgeous artifacts that silently witness to the splendors of medieval art. These digs display the objects that once inspired poetry. These and innumerable other material objects, from buildings to baby cradles, offer the student a fascinating entre into medieval literature. This course aims to introduce the student to ways of reading that connect literature with material culture, and that help us recognize the social meanings of aesthetic objects. We will study Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Book of Margery Kempe, and Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. We will visit museums and art and archaeology exhibits, both locally and online. Students will conduct research on specific material objects, write descriptive reports on medieval treasures, and write analytical essays about the literature.

ENGLISH 280 - Thematic Approaches to Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
002 (LEC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
003 (LEC)
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0393330109
Beowulf : an illustrated edition, Author: translated by Seamus Heaney ; illustrations edited by John D. Niles., Publisher: W. W. Norton 1st ed. 2008
ISBN: 0393930254
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight., Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc 2009
ISBN: 9780141441436
The travels of Sir John Mandeville, Author: translated with an introduction by C.W.R.D. Moseley., Publisher: Penguin 2005
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