Reading Literature in French, 1100 to 1500, through the Lenses of Gender, Animality, and Cultural Difference
In this introductory course, we will read representative texts of literature written in French and
Occitan between 1100 and 1500. We will pay especial attention to how gender, animality, and cultural
difference played a role in the doing and undoing of communities. What does it mean to be a woman
writer when most things were written by men? What does it mean to be a man, at court or at war?
What did people learn when traveling to Asia, and how did it impact the way people conceived of
ethnicity and culture? How did medieval writers and readers think of animals and themselves in the
world? How can one be sincere when copying a love-poem? What does consent mean from one
setting to another?
We will address these cultural questions with special attention to literary form in works like Marie de
France’s Lais, Machaut’s Jugement du Roi de Bohême, and Alain Chartier’s Belle Dame sans merci. We will
also look at how these texts were transmitted through manuscripts. Feedback-heavy
assignments will help students improve their writing and speaking skills, their analytical acumen, and
their overall cultural and literary understanding of the late medieval period.
The course will be taught in French, and no knowledge of Old French, Latin, or Occitan is required.
All readings will be done in modern translation. Assignments and discussions are all in French.