ENGLISH 450 - Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
Section: 001 Medieval Rebels
Term: WN 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

This course will focus on the many texts involved with and surrounding the English historical event most commonly known as the “Peasants’ Revolt” of 1381. This term is an inaccurate description of the event, as we will discuss in class, but it reveals the biases of the writers of official history, who, while writing their records of the event, went to great lengths to depict the rebels all as members of the lowest social standing — and, besides that, as being coarse, base, and dumb. In fact, many of the rebels were peasants, but not all of them were. And the actions of all the rebels — peasant or not — were well-planned and organized; they demonstrate the fierce intelligence of a population tired of being oppressed by those making claims of superiority and power over them.

The rebels circulated news among themselves by means of several remarkable letters, some of them in verse, which we will study, along with the great Middle English poem Piers Plowman, which appears to have been a source of great inspiration to them. We will also read medieval historical chroniclers’ accounts of the revolt, which take considerable creative license to tell the “official” history of the revolt a certain way, and poems based on the revolt written by Geoffrey Chaucer and his lesser-known contemporary John Gower. Additionally, the revolt stimulated a number of anonymous poems of social critique and bears connections to poems and other creative texts associated with the religious heresy known as Lollardy — we will study a range of these works as well.

It is clear that those in power after the revolt was quieted wished the rebels to be forgotten or remembered badly. The course aims to remember them well, and to acknowledge and pay heed to the texts they produced themselves, the texts that inspired them, and the texts that they inspired.

Students will have to purchase one paperback book; the rest of the readings will be on Canvas.

Course Requirements:

Course work includes two exams, two major papers of five or so pages in length, and some smaller written assignments and quizzes.

Class Format:

The instructor will do some very brief lecturing, but this course will otherwise be discussion-based.

ENGLISH 450 - Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (REC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0393975592
Piers Plowman : the Donaldson translation, Middle English text, sources and backgrounds, criticism, Author: William Langland. Ed. by Elizabeth Robertson and Stephen H.A. Shepherd., Publisher: Norton 1st ed. 2006
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for ENGLISH 450 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi
The CourseProfile (ART) system, supported by the U-M Provost’s 3rd Century Initiative through a grant to the Office of Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (ART)