Getting Medieval

HC 421H

Professor: Louise Bishop

What is “medieval”? The word anglicizes Latin medium aevum and comes into common usage in the nineteenth century, replacing the previously-used term “Gothic.” Why the change? Through primary texts like The Song of Roland and the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, we explore the “creation” of the Middle Ages and ponder the odd admixture of scorn and delight that the term "medieval" conjures for modern audiences. “Medieval,” as well as “Gothic,” have been interpreted, re-interpreted, and even recreated from the “Renaissance” – an era now called “Early Modern” -- to today. We will grapple with the creation of historical “eras” and pay some special attention to the word’s use in contemporary analyses of war and torture. How can the word “medieval” contain its paradoxical resonances of torturous violence – getting medieval on your @#$% (Pulp Fiction) -- and chivalric romance? Course requirements include primary and secondary readings with accompanying writing, class presentations, and a term paper. One film showing outside of class time is required. Schedules permitting, we will visit the Benedictine monastery in Mount Angel, Oregon.