Syllabus - Schedule of Classes

Jan. 10, 2019: First Day of Class: Welcome and Introduction.  

Let us discuss specifically what 5 of the most prevalent topics have always been for people throughout time. These will then be dealt with throughout the class looking at them through a variety of lenses


Jan. 15: We read the introductory text by Emily Amt and Classen: Historical framework, social structure, economic conditions


Jan. 17: Continuation with Amt/Classen: literature, religion, education, Jewish-Christian relations

Questions for group work

Jan. 22: Marie de France: Bisclavret

Jan. 24: Marie de France: Bisclavret

Jan. 29: Marie de France: The Lay of the Two Lovers, Eliduc, and Lanval.

You will be responsible for Eliduc yourself; it will be part of the exam, but we won't have time to discuss it in class. 

Jan. 31: Marie, Lanval; then: Father-Son Conflict, Loyalty, Honor, Death

The Song of Hildebrand (55-56)


Feb. 5: 1st exam: this will be done on tophat, with multiple-choice questions. If time permits, we'll continue with our discussion of Hildebrand

Feb. 7: Hildebrand, cont., and, for a contrast, Kaufringer, no. 21


Feb. 12: We begin with our preparations for the portfolio. Please go to the library and bring a single-authored book on some of the texts with you to class today. Everyone with a name ending on A-C: Boethius (or medieval philosophy); ending on D-G: Nibelungenlied; ending on H-N: Marie de France; ending on O-R: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; S-T: Abelard, ending on U-W: Heinrich Kaufringer; ending on X-Z: Dante. Try to find a monograph of recent vintage (not prior to 1970, or so).  We'll read for today: Nibelungenlied:1-15
Feb. 14: Nibelungenlied: 16-22
Feb. 19: Nibelungenlied  23-30 

Feb. 21: Nibelungenlied 31-39

Feb. 26: 1st essay due in class (in print; also, we must have an electronic version in Assignment on D2L): write either on Marie de France, Hildebrandslied, or Nibelungenlied. I can give you theses options, or you can choose your own. Please pay attention to the instructions above.

We read: Kaufringer: The Cowardly Husband (no. 6)


Feb. 28: Kaufringer: The Cowardly Husband. Then: History of the monastic orders. Then: Our Lady's Tumbler. As background, if you wish, see, for instance, Le Thionet (photos) Le Thionet (video I, with speaker) (video II, only music in the background) (video III, with Gregorian chant). You can also read this article: A. Classen, "The Human Quest for Happiness and Meaning" in Athens Journal of Humanities and Meaning (2017).


Spring break March 2-10

March 12: Final discussion of the Tumbler.

Some questions: 1. Who is this tumbler? 2. Why does he join the monastery? 3. What does he dispair about? 4. What is his alternative? 5. Why is he successful in that? 6. What does the other monk observe? 7. How does the abbot respond and then observe? 8. How does the abbot then interact with the tumbler? 9. How does the monastic community treat the tumbler? 10. Why would the Tumbler be an ideal also for us today?

Then: Introduction to late antiquity, Boethius, philosophy


March 14: Boethius, Book I.

Homework assignment: Find a recent critical study on Boethius, either online (in a journal) or in the library (paper copy), read it and summarize it critically. Please report back to the class what the individual scholar's contribution was on March 19 


March 19: Boethius, Book II


March 21: Boethius, Book III


March 26: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

March 28: 2nd essay due in class (deal with one text we have discussed since the first essay, such as one or two lais by Marie de France, the NL, or Our Lady's Tumbler. We are reading: Sir Gawain, and Kaufringer, no. 1 (contrastive approach). Maybe better, leave out Marie de France, but consider writing also about Boethius, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or Kaufringer.

Format and requirement, once again: 

1. Title, which should represent your thesis in a nutshell. Ex.: The meaning of true happiness in Boethius (very broad, of course)

2. Thesis, put it in bold within the introductory paragraph.  Ex.: Whereas most people search for happiness in material conditions, B. argues that true happiness rests in the striving for self-sufficiency as a natural instinct in all beings. Please, formlate your thesis differently.

3. Main argument, drawing from your chosen topic. I would suggest to stay away from Marie de France b/c some of you dealt with her lais already in paper 1. Here you also must incorporate the insights of some scholar who addressed the text/s you are dealing with. Either agree or disagree with him/her.

4. Reach a Conclusion, which ought to correspond to your thesis statement. 

5. Bibliography: cite the one source you have consulted.

6. Observe the word limit; make sure that you do not quote excessively from the main text, summarize the main point. When discussing the outside source, use formulas such as: Whereas, while, although, in correspondence with, drawing from, etc. etc.


April 02:  Continue with Kaufringer no. 1. What do we make out of this story for us today? Is there no clear human justice? We also read: Abelard, 247-248


April 04: Rationality, Critical Thinking: Abelard, 249-252


April 09: Completion of Abelard: focusing on Heloise's comments (253-55); Kaufringer: No. 7; 2nd paper is returned today

that was obviously not possible. So, the rewrite date will have to be moved down, tba.


April 11:  For a contrast, we read: Kaufringer: no. 13, no. 18


April 16: If you want to rewrite your second essay, it will be due on this day, in class. Bold all changes and submit both the old and the new version (staple both together). Only the second grade will count, so watch it, it could go up (I hope so), or down! We read: Dante Alighieri: Midlife Crisis, Meaning of Life, Love: We begin reading Dante's Inferno (139) Questions. (Video 1; Video 2Video 3).Life of Dante 


April 18:  Roger Bacon: new text, please read online by clicking on the link to the left. I have also edited the text for you. Click here. We also read: Heinrich Kaufringer, no. 4


April 23: 3rd essay due in class (deal with one text only covered in class since the 2nd essay) (in print; also, we must have an electronic version in Assignment on D2L):We read: Heinrich Kaufringer: No. 8: The Search for the Happily Married Couple; No. 25: Seven Deadly Sins

What will be on the 2nd exam: questions about the various stories by Kaufringer in comparison with some of the previous readings; Dante, Abelard, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Boethius, NibelungenliedOur Lady's TumblerHildebrandslied. I cannot be more specific at this point, but it will be comprehensive, substituting the final after the end of the semester.

April 25: 2nd exam; we also read Kaufringer, no. 21 and no. 11


April 30: Deadline for portfolio, submit online. Last day of class. We'll read: Kaufringer: No. 14: The Innocent Murderess; No. 29: Fight over Love and Beauty.

Final reflections: What have we achieved, what have we learned. 



Extra credit: attend any of the sessions in the conference "Fantasy, Imagination, and Monstrosity," Fri or Sat., May 3-4, but sign in, please. You will be welcome to attend the conference as long as you want.  Write a brief summary of ca. 500 words and submit to me in my office as a printed copy on Mo, May 6, latest at 4 p.m. No late submissions!  Up to 30 extra points.

The Program (to be updated)

Students are responsible for picking up their graded papers either in class or from the dept. within max. 10 school days after they have been returned officially in class. Similarly, students are responsible for checking on their grades posted on D2L. After 10 school days no further review is possible. I cannot guarantee that your papers will be waiting for you weeks after the deadline. Submission to assignment on D2L is not a substitute for the hard copy.



Subject to Change Statement

Information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Final Grade Review: If there might be a problem with your grade, you can ask me for a review until May 14, 12 p.m. Beyond that, there will not be any opportunity to revisit your grade.