This post is precisely what it says on the tin. When I prepare my reading lists, I spend a lot of time looking at other people’s syllabuses and other people’s discussions of pedagogy (especially those by Liz Gloyn, who blogs here, Rachel Moss, who blogs here, Jane-Heloise Nancarrow, here, and Carissa Harris, whose blog I’m eagerly awaiting). I’ve always – lazily? – crowd-sourced support and tips.
I find it hugely useful when people take the trouble to put details – reading lists, in particular – online. It also seems to me that these lists might give students, especially undergrads thinking about postgraduate work, some ideas about fun things to read. In that spirit, here are my reading lists for my MPhil teaching for next term, complete with some (speculative) annotations about what I’m doing and why.
MPhil in Medieval Literature
I’m teaching one component of this course, which is taught in three seminars of 90 minutes each. The idea is that students discuss texts – and theory – that they’ve read before, and over the course of a term (with six seminars in total delivered by two academics) they write an extended essay. They also attend classes in palaeography and codicology, which are assessed by written exercise, and, throughout the course of the whole nine months, they write a dissertation.
When I’ve taught this course previously (in 2015 and 2016), I’ve used a running theme of ‘community’ to draw my texts together, and I’ve encouraged students to look at manuscripts in the University Library that include the texts we’re studying. In each seminar, I’ve brought in short extracts from historical and theoretical texts, to contextualise the literary material – this reflects my training at the University of York, which was quite heavily historical and theoretical, and my training during my PhD, which was broadly based in book history. Although those are my interests, Cambridge has a big tradition of doing close reading, and this is one of my favourite methodologies, so we also do a fair bit of that in class. I’ve been reasonably happy about the way the course has run, but this year I’ve been rewriting the syllabus to include more theory and (I hope) to give students more choice of different approaches.
Week 1: Space, Place, Community: Langland in London
I’m fascinated by the way Langland imagines communities, and maps them onto all sorts of spaces – real, imaginary, allegorical, architectural, somatic, arboreal … the list goes on. But I also think the manuscript history of Piers Plowman is a good way in to thinking about networks of production and transmission. The theory I’d want to look at this week is what I think of as ‘heavy’ theory – it is philosophical as much as it is literary or cultural – but I think it matches up very well with Langland’s own tendency to play games with epistemology.
I include some quite old scholarship – notably, Carruthers’ Search for St Truth – partly because I love it, and partly because I want students to be able to think about changes over time. I’m also including studies that don’t relate directly to Langland, to model the way we use secondary scholarship for its methodology or its insights into the heavy theory, and not just for its direct comments on a primary text. Personally, I’m thinking about these issues in the context of the recent ‘Women at Sea‘ conference, which used the space of the academic discussion to host works of creative writing. But I don’t yet know whether or not students will agree, or whether they’ll see something entirely different.
Langland, William, Piers Plowman : A New Annotated Edition of the C-Text, ed. and D. Pearsall (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2008)
Langland, William, The Vision of Piers Plowman ; a Critical Edition of the B-Text Based on Trinity College Cambridge MS B.15.17, ed. by A. V. C. Schmidt (London: Everyman, 1995)
Langland, William, Piers Plowman: A Parallel-Text Edition of the A, B, C and Z Versions, ed. by A. V. C. Schmidt (London: Longman, 1995)
The journal devoted to Langland studies is the Yearbook of Langland Studies.
McAvoy, Liz Herbert, ed., Rhetoric of the Anchorhold: Space, Place and Body within the Discourses of Enclosure (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008)
Benson, C. David, Public Piers Plowman: Modern Scholarship and Late Medieval English Culture (University Park, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)
Carruthers, Mary, The Search for St Truth. A Study of Meaning in Piers Plowman (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973)
Cassidy-Welch, Megan, ‘Medieval Practices of Space and Place’, Parergon: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies 27:2 (2010), 1-12.
Cole, Andrew, and Andrew Galloway, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Piers Plowman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)
Foucault, Michel ) ‘Of other spaces’, trans. Lotus, in N. Leach (ed.) Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, London: Routledge, 1997), 330-336
Foucault, Michel,  ‘Different Spaces’, trans. R. Hurley, in Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault Volume 2, ed. J. D. Faubion (London: Penguin, 1998), 175-185.
Foucault, Michel,  ‘Of other spaces,’ trans. M. Dehaene and L. De Cauter, (eds.), Heterotopia and the City, eds. Dehaene and Cauter (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), 13-30.
Goldberg, Jeremy, ‘John Rykener, Richard II, and the Governance of London,’ Leeds Studies in English NS XLV (2014): 49-70 (51).
Hanna, Ralph, London Literature, 1300-1380 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Horobin, Simon, ‘Harley 3954 and the audience of Piers Plowman,’ in Medieval Texts in Context, eds. Graham D. Caie and Denis Renevey (London: Routledge, 2008), 68-84.
Justice, Steven, Writing and Rebellion : England in 1381 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)
Justice, Steven, and Katherine Kerby-Fulton, eds., Written Work: Langland, Labor and Authorship (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)
Kerby-Fulton, Kathryn, and Denise L. Despres, Iconography and the Professional Reader. The Politics of Book Production in the Douce Piers Plowman. Medieval Cultures Vol. 15 (London and Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).
Lefevbre, Henri, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991)
Lindenbaum, Sheila, ‘London Texts and Literate Practice,’ in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: University Press, 1999), pp. 284-312.
Mooney, Linne R., and Estelle Stubbs, Scribes and the City: London Guildhall Clerks and the Dissemination of Middle English Literature (York: Medieval Press, 2013)
Scase, Wendy (ed.), Essays in Manuscript Geography. Vernacular Manuscripts of the English West Midlands from the Conquest to the Sixteenth Century (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007)
Steiner, Emily, Reading Piers Plowman (Cambridge: University Press, 2013)
Warner, Lawrence, The Myth of Piers Plowman. Constructing a Medieval Literary Archive (Cambridge: CUP, 2014)
Whitehead, Christiania, Castles of the Mind: A Study of Medieval Architectural Allegory
Zeeman, Nicolette, Piers Plowman and the Medieval Discourse of Desire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Queer Communities in Medieval Romance
Some of the secondary reading for the previous week has times (thematic or theoretical) with queer theory, but this week’s focus is more explicit. I’m quite ambivalent about Queer Theory, so I’m interested to see what students make of it – and whether they think there’s a distinction to be made between texts that depict same-sex desire and/or gender nonconformity, and texts that are queer? Frankly, I also think these romances are a lot of fun, so they should be nice to read and teach.
Le Roman de Silence. A thirteenth-century Arthurian verse-romance by Heldris de Cornuälle, ed. Lewis Thorpe (Cambridge, W. Heffer, 1972)
Silence: A Thirteenth-century French Romance. A facing page translation by Sarah Roche-Mahdi (East Lansing, MI: Michegan State University Press, 1992).
The Squire of Low Degree, in Sentimental and Humorous Romances, ed. Erik Cooper (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2005). Online at http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/publication/kooper-sentimental-humorous-romances
Sir Degrevant, in Sentimental and Humorous Romances, ed. Erik Cooper (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2005). Online at http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/kooper-sentimental-and-humorous-romances-sir-degrevant
Arthuriana 7.1 (1997) and 12.1 (2002) are special issues devoted to studies of the Roman de Silence.
Ashe, Laura, Ivana Djordjević and Judith Weiss (eds), The Exploitations of Medieval Romance (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2010)
Burns, E. Jane, Bodytalk: When Women Speak in Old French Literature (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993)
Butler, Judith, Undoing Gender (New York and London: Routledge, 2004)
Callahan, Christopher, ‘Canon Law, Primogeniture, and the Marriage of Ebain and Silence,’ Romance Quarterly 49:1 (2002): 12-20.
Clark, Robert A., ‘Queering Gender, Naturalising Class in the Roman de Silence,’ Arthuriana 12: 1 (2002): 50-63.
Cooper, Helen, The English Romance in Time. Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the death of Shakespeare (Oxford: University Press, 2004)
Diamond, Arlyn, ‘Sir Degrevant: What Lovers Want,’ in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England. Essays in Popular Romance, edited by Nicola McDonald (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004), 82-101.
Dinshaw, Carolyn, How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012)
Doyle, Kara, ‘Thisbe Out Of Context: Chaucer’s Female Readers and the Findern Manuscript.’ Chaucer Review 40 (2006): 231-261.
Edwards, A. S. G., ‘Gender, Order and Reconciliation in Sir Degrevant,’ in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1994): 53-64.
Giffney, Noreen, Michelle M. Sauer and Diane Watt (eds), The Lesbian Premodern, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
Hanna, Ralph, and Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘The History of a Family Collection.’ In The Wollaton Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers, edited by Ralph Hanna and Thorlac Turville-Petre (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2010), 3-19.
Heng, Geraldine, Empire of Magic. Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2003)
Karras, Ruth Mazo, Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing unto others, 2nd edn (London and New York: Routledge, 2012)
Lees, Clare E. (ed.), Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994)
Lochrie, Karma, Heterosyncrasies: Female Sexuality When Normal Wasn’t (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2005)
Lochrie, Karma, Peggy McCracken and James A. Schultz (eds), Constructing Medieval Sexuality (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997)
McDonald, N. F., ‘Desire out of Order and Undo Your Door,’ Studies in the Age of Chaucer 34 (2012): 247-275
McNamer, Sarah, ‘Female Authors, Provincial Settings: The Re-versing of Courtly Love in the Findern Manuscript,’ Viator 22 (1991): 279-310
Pugh, Tison, Sexuality and its Queer Discontents in Middle English Literature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
Putter, Ad, and Jane Gilbert (eds), The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance London: Pearson Education, 2000)
Saunders, Corinne J., ed., A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004)
Terrell, Katherine H., ‘Competing gender ideologies and the limitations of language in Le Roman de Silence,’ Romance Quarterly 55: 1 (2008): 35-48
Silenced Communities: Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women and Canterbury Tales
This week will be the last seminar of term, so I wanted to bring together some canonical primary material with a broad range of secondary material, some of which is quite explicitly polemical. I’m interested to see how this week runs. I’ve taught explicitly violent material (and sexually violent material) quite a lot over the past two years. I’m aware (obviously) of all the controversies over trigger warnings and content notes and the ethics of teaching these texts, but I’m pretty committed to teaching them, and I do see it as a form of feminist work to teach them. My experience is that students feel the same way.
I really wanted to give students some second wave feminist material – despite (or because of?) the fact that it can be difficult. For example, as someone commented when I suggested her work, Brownmiller’s views on race might take some criticism. But I think it’s especially important to read second wave feminism in the current climate, because it’s so easy to dismiss (without reading) female scholars as ‘dated’ or ‘bigoted’ – rather than reading them as people who had huge insights that moved the conversation on.
For this seminar I would like you to read The Legend of Good Women and any of the Canterbury Tales you wish to choose – but the Merchant’s Tale, the Wife of Bath’s Tale, and/or the Reeve’s Tale, are recommended.
The Legend of Good Women and The Canterbury Tales from The Riverside Chaucer, gen. ed. Larry D. Benson (Oxford, 1987)
Alcoff, Linda, and Laura Gray, ‘Survivor Discourse: Transgression or Recuperation?,’ Signs 18: 2 (1993): 260-290.
Bourdieu, Pierre, Language and Symbolic Power, edited and introduced by John B. Thompson, trans. Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991)
Brownmiller, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975)
Cannon, Christopher, ‘Raptus in the Chaumpaigne Release and a Newly Discovered Document Concerning the Life of Geoffrey Chaucer,’Speculum 68 (1993): 74-94
Carruthers, Mary, ‘The Wife of Bath and the Painting of Lions,’ PMLA 94:2 (1979): 209-222
Cixous, Hélène, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa,’ trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs 1:4 (1976): 875-93
Collette, Carolyn P., Rethinking Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women (York: Medieval Press, 2014)
Delany, Sheila, The Naked Text: Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)
Desmond, Marilynn, Ovid’s Art and the Wife of Bath: The Ethics of Erotic Violence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006)
Dinshaw, Carolyn, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1989)
Edwards, Suzanne M., The Afterlives of Rape in Medieval English Literature (New York: Palgrave, 2016)
Evans, Ruth, and Lesley Johnson (eds), Feminist Readings in Middle English Literature: The Wife of Bath and All Her Sect (London: Routledge, 1994)
Frank, Robert Worth, Chaucer and the Legend of Good Women (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972)
Galloway, Andrew, ‘Chaucer’s Legend of Lucrece and the Critique of Ideology in Fourteenth-Century England,’ ELH 60:4 (1993): 813-832
Gavey, Nicola, Just Sex? The Cultural Scaffolding of Rape (London and New York: Routledge, 2005)
Hansen, Elaine Tuttle, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, 1992)
Harris, Carissa, ‘Inserting “a grete tente, a thrifty, and a long”: Sexual Obscenity and Scribal Innovation in Fifteenth-Century Manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales,’ Essays in Medieval Studies 28 (2012): 1-16.
Klindienst, Patricia, ‘The Voice of the Shuttle is Ours,’ in Rape and Representation, eds. Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda A. Silver (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 35-64.
Mardorossian, Carine M., ‘Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape,’ Signs 27:3 (2007): 743-75.
McDonald, N. F., ‘Chaucer’s “Legend of good women,” Ladies at Court and the Female Reader,’ The Chaucer Review, 35: 1 (2001) 22-42.
Niebrzydowski, Sue, “‘So wel koude he me glose’: The Wife of Bath and the Eroticism of Touch,” in The Erotic in the Literature of Medieval Britain, eds. Amanda Hopkins and Cory James Rushton (Cambridge, Eng., 2007), pp. 18-26.
Robertson, Elizabeth, and Christine M. Rose, eds., Representing Rape in Medieval and Early Modern Literature (New York: Palgrave, 2001)
Saunders, Corinne, Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2001)
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak,’ in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, eds. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988)
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, ‘History,’ in A History of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Press, 1999), 198-311. Includes a revised version of the previous essay.
Strauss, Barrie Ruth, ‘The Subversive Discourse of the Wife of Bath: Phallocentric Discourse and the Imprisonment of Criticism,’ ELH 55:3 (1988): 527-54.
Please feel free to nick any or all of these reading lists! Or to let me know if you’d do something different/recommend some more reading.