This class explores the tradition of lyric verse in England up to and including the first printed collection of poetry, Tottel’s Miscellany, printed in 1557. We will read widely in medieval poetic forms (in the original language, which we’ll learn to read). We will explore how the material context of medieval poetry—the manuscripts in which it was written down—shape this tradition. How are ideas about selfhood, voice, and poetic form influenced by the medium of the manuscript? How do the contents of manuscripts, which are usually miscellaneous, influence the meaning of particular poems and the cultural work of poetry itself? Basic introductions to medieval paleography (handwriting) and codicology (the study of manuscripts as objects) will allow us to explore these questions using digital facsimiles of medieval manuscripts. At the end of the term, we’ll consider how the technology of print changes poetic tradition by reshaping ideas about the poet, the reading of poetry, and poetry’s status as literature.
Assignments will include a short exercise in close reading a poem (3-5 pp.), an analysis of scholarship (4-6 pp.), a course project (6-8 pp.), and a short take-home essay (3-5 pp.).