Course: Inventing the Middle Ages

HC 421H

Professor: Louise Bishop

What is the western "Middle Ages"?  Who first named it, and why?  How has "medieval" been interpreted, re-interpreted, and even recreated from the Renaissance to the 21st century? What are the resonances of the term "medieval" today?  We will anchor our investigation with readings about the Middle Ages, including Carolyn Dinshaw's "Getting Medieval:  Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern."  We will read primary medieval texts as well as secondary literature that traces the conscious creation of a medieval "other."  We will consider "medieval" as amorphous, as Romantic, as "folk," as “oriental,” as marketing tool.  We will think about the odd admixture of scorn and delight that the term "medieval" conjures for modern audiences, and about the term's cultural specificity (or in-specificity).  Time and schedules permitting, we will visit the Benedictine monastery in Mount Angel, Oregon and also try our hand at some variety of medieval recreation.  Class presentation and term paper, as well as short reaction papers, required.