ENGL-116-01 Medieval Lyric Poetry
Fall for 2005-2006
This course offers a broad survey of the medieval lyric through the lens of cultural studies. We will take a pan-European view of the genre, reading not only lyrics from medieval England, Ireland, Provence, Portugal, Germany, and Italy, but from the rich Arabic and Hebrew traditions of Andalusia. Most of these lyrics are gorgeous, even at first glance; many also come across as powerful expressions of personal emotion that transcend culture, politics, and history. But our object in this course will be to recall that, however beautiful they may be, “texts are worldly” – and thus to embed the poems in the historical, cultural and theoretical matrices that can illuminate their ideological operations as well as (and in conjunction with) their aesthetic complexities. Theorists such as Althusser, Jauss, Bourdieu, Butler, Foucault, Said, Zizek and Schechner will guide us we investigate, among other things, the function of the lyric in the production of subjectivity (including gender and sexuality), social relations, religious identities and cultural allegiances. Given the lyric’s preoccupation with emotion – from the intense grief voiced in Marian laments to the erotic yearnings of troubadour song – our discussions will often center on the historicity of feeling: on how emotion is constructed and performed via the lyric, and to what social and political ends. Cultural transmission will be another focus, as we move from considering the interactions between “high” and “low” cultures in the production and performance of the lyric to an extended investigation of convivencia among Muslims, Jews and Christians in medieval Spain – a “culture of tolerance” created and sustained in part through the vehicle of lyric poetry.
All readings will be in modern English translation, except for the Middle English lyrics. No prior exposure to Middle English is necessary.
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Fall '05: McNamer, S. (description)
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