SPAN-477 Sensory Worlds: Medieval Literature and the Senses
Fall for 2017-2018
Thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Iberian poetry is filled with imagery that appeals to the senses. Poets invite listeners not just to see and listen to what they describe, but also to smell, taste, and feel poetry. Attending to rhetorical synesthesia (mixed sensory tropes) and ekphrasis (vivid description), two closely related and at times intersecting poetic devices, this course will explore the somaesthetic dimensions of medieval Spanish poetry. Sensory and synesthetic metaphors are continual reminders of the presence of the body as a perceiving object and subject that serves as the conduit of feelings and information to the soul; they reveal medieval literature’s deep preoccupation with human senses, sensuality, and the relationship between body and soul. Further, synesthetic metaphors also attune us, as modern readers, to the essence of poems as performances, brought forth from a speaking or singing body, to be enjoyed through the eyes and the ears. As sensual as medieval poetry can be, the bodies that sing, listen, and interpret it have been overlooked by contemporary criticism. In addition to reading the Libro de Alexandre, the Libro de Apolonio, the Libro de buen amor and selected narrative poems by Gonzalo de Berceo, we will read medieval medicinal, theological, and epistemological works on the senses.
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