Ger 278/Hist 278: Women’s Literature in the Middle Ages

Course materials:


Ger/Hist 278, Winter 2013/2014: Medieval Answers to Modern Problems: Medieval Women’s Literature. Major Female Voices From the Past

INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Albrecht Classen, Dept. of German Studies, 301 Learning Services Building, Office 318; tel. 621-1395;;


The Middle Ages seem to be a period far away from our own times, but any close analysis indicates that the roots of the modern world reach back directly to the medieval period. Many of the questions raised then are also raised today, and we moderns are obviously still confronted with the same problems as people in those distant times were. This course does not intend to build a flimsy bridge between two cultural epochs just because historically we grew out of the older epoch. Instead, there is an understanding of fundamental links between both worlds, and we are well-advised to consider the past in order to understand the present, and hence to prepare us for the future. This course focuses on the gender issue, relevant both then and today, and examines what four major women writers had to say about themselves and their world.

This is a literature, history, and philosophy course which satisfies the requirements for General Education, Tier Two, Humanities, dealing with fundamental aspects of human culture in an interdisciplinary fashion, developing critical thinking and interpretive approaches to timeless issues in human life. The focus will rest on women’s literature, which used to be located at the margin. Today, however, we have recognized how much these female writers had to say about themselves and their society.

UA Bookstore on campus.
1. Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, A Florilegium
2. Hildegard of Bingen: Selected Writings
3. Marie de France, The Lais
4. Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, ed. and trans. Rosalind Brown-Grant

5. Read the historical introduction by Emily Amt, online, see below.

This is an online course, so we will meet 2-3 times a week online in our chatroom. See the requirement under the chatroom meeting schedule. There is a total of 9 meetings scheduled. You must attend at least 7. If you miss 3, loss of 50 points; miss 4, loss of 100 points; miss 5, loss of 150 points; miss 6 and more: automatic F in the course. This will be done in percentage points.

If you use secondary material for your papers, make sure that you indicate clearly where you took it from. Plagiarism and cheating violate the Code of Academic Integrity. For further information, see:

Do not ever copy from the work produced by your classmates or by other students who might have taken this course in previous semesters. If you receive help in writing your papers, make sure that the final outcome still represents your own work. You can discuss your papers with your fellow students, but at the end they need to consist of your own ideas and words! Be advised that the Web is a great search tool, but never, never copy from there without identifying very clearly what you used.  At this point the scholarly value of web-based material still is not totally reliable, and the chances that you might stumble upon a most dubious webpage with untrustworthy information are very high.  When you quote from a secondary source, clearly identify the quote and tell the reader in a footnote where you quoted from. Every year more than 100 students at the UA are caught having committed the crime of plagiarism, resulting in penalties that could be as severe as expulsion from the University!  You are smart enough not to copy from other people.

If there is any doubt in your mind whether you might commit plagiarism, see:

Plagiarism and the Web
If you commit plagiarism, you could either receive a 0 on your specific assignment, or an F for the entire course.  Depending on the gravity of the case, you might even be expelled from the University. Every plagiarism case must be reported to the Head of my depart., to the head of your dept., and to the Dean of Students.

Help with writing: The Writing Skills Improvement Program offers a number of valuable workshops at 1201 E. Helen Street.  Please consult with them if you have a need to improve your writing skills (no walk-ins).  For perhaps more immediate help, see the Writing Center (walk-ins allowed). Tel.: 621-5849

Writing Center: The Writing Center is a free resource for UA undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff.  At the Writing Center, a trained peer consultant will work individually with you on anything you’re writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing. Appointments are recommended, but not required.  For more information or to make an appointment, visit their website at, stop by at Nugent Building, main level, or call (520) 626-0530.?

GRADING: (100 percent)
1. 3 essays submitted online 20% each, for a total of 60%. For rubrics, see below.
2. 1 final exam with essay questions: 20%
3. Online discussions in the chatrooms. There will be nine meetings, and you can only miss up to 2. Total: 20%
Topics: We will deal with four different authors. Each time, pick a special theme, a topic, a motif, a symbol, etc. and develop it through a careful, critical analysis. We’ll deal with Christine de Pizan in the final exam only.

Each essay will be graded as follows:
Must be typed, with at least 1″ margin on all sides, at least 12 points letter size.Submit in electronic form to the dropboxes in D2L. Keep in mind that each paper will be automatically examined as to the degree of similarities with other papers (turnitin software!). When there is suspicion of plagiarism, I will call you in for a conference, and the consequences for plagiarism might be very harsh. Do not write your paper together with a classmate, though you can, of course, discuss the topics with him/her. If you copy from another paper/chapter/article in print or online, without acknowledging the author and without indicating the extent to which you have copied by means of quotation marks and references, you commit plagiarism. Even if you acknowledge another source, but have used a major portion of that source to substitute for your own analysis, this also constitutes plagiarism.

Thesis: Concisely developed, clear concept, well formulated (avoid paraphrase!) – 50 points. Always provide a title that captures your thesis. Your thesis must ultimately correlate to a scholarly paper (one source for the second and two sources for the third essay; no outside source necessary for the first paper) with which you are required to engage critically. This carries over to the argument section where you need to present in brief form what the article by the scholar is about and how you evaluate it. The article (or chapter in a scholarly book) must be pertinent to the material discussed and must address the text directly! Do not cite anything from prior to 1960!

Argument: Good use of original text to illustrate the thesis; complex argument based on a solid knowledge of the text; convincing organization; good use of secondary source/s. If mostly summary or paraphrase, heavy deduction of points. – 110 points

Conclusion: Convincing connection with the thesis, good summary of the argument, final comment on the outside source (negatively or positively), concise formulation – 20 points

Stylistics/Mechanics: 20 points

Bibliography: See, for instance, my Handbook of Medieval Studies, ed. A. C. (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 2010), online in our library database. Familiarize yourself with the various research sources in our library (MLA, JSTOr, etc.). You are encouraged to consult scholarly material to support your thesis, but this is not required.

LENGTH: Ca. 800-1000 words each. Thesis and Conclusion, ca. 100 words each, Argument ca. 600-800 words.

How to cite your secondary sources, if you use any:
Trumpener, Katie. “Memories Carved in Granite: Great War Memorials and Everyday Life.”  PMLA 115 (2000): 1096-103.
Hanks, Patrick.  “Do Word Meanings Exist?”  Computers and the Humanities 34 (2000): 205-15.
Kurlansky, Mark. Salt. A World (New York: Scribner’s, 2001).
“Selected Seventeenth-Century Events,” Romantic Chronology.  Ed. Laura Mandell and Alan Liu. 1999. U of California, Santa Barbara.  12 November 2003 <;. (last accessed on Month, date, year)
Let me strongly encourage you to consult the Handbook of Medieval Studies, ed. Albrecht Classen, 3 vols., 2010, online in our library.

LATE SUBMISSION: Papers must be submitted online on time, late submissions are not permitted (except with valid excuse).


Dec. 23 – 27: Read the brief introduction to the Middle Ages by Emily Amt. We’ll discuss the basic aspects in the chatroom.

Your first reading for Mo.: Hrotsvita of Gandersheim: Preface to the Legends; Pelagius

Tue: Preface to the Dramas; Her Letter to the Learned Patrons of this Book

We: The Martyrdom of the Holy Virgins Agape, Chionia, and Hirena

Thu: The Fall and Repentance of Mary

1st essay is due on Fri, Dec. 27, in the dropbox, 11 p.m.

chatroom meetings: Dec. 23 and 26, 8 p.m. MST

Dec. 28- Jan. 2: Marie de France:

28, Sa.: Prologue and Guigemar

29, Su: Le Fresne and Bisclavret

30, Mo: Lanval and Les deux amanz

31, Tue: Yonec

Jan. 1-2, We-Thu: Eliduc

2nd essay is due on Fri, Jan. 3, in the dropbox, 11 p.m.

chat room meetings: Dec. 29, Jan. 1, 8 p.m., MST

Jan. 3-8: Hildegard of Bingen

4, Sa: Intro, I and II, 1-4

5, Su: Letters (pp. 3-5, 65-68, 179-82)

6, Mo: Action of the Will, pp. 6-13

7, Tu: The Cosmic Egg, 89-105
3rd essay is due on Thu, Jan. 10, in the dropbox, 11 p.m. (note the change to the 10th)

chat room meetings: Jan. 3, 6, MST., and on Jan. 8, at 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 9-13: Christine de Pizan, read the intro, xvi-xxxv

9, Thu: The Book of the City of Ladies, 5-20

10, Fri: BoCity, 29-39

11, Sa: BoCity, 57-69

12, Su: The Book of the City of Ladies, pp. 201-208, 237-40

I will post the exam on 13, Mo.

Cumulative exam, with an emphasis on Christine; essay questions; due on Jan. 14, 1 p.m.

chat room meetings: Jan. 10, 13, 8 p.m. MST. On Jan. 13 we’ll review, and evaluate what we have learned.