Introduction to the Middle Ages (3 CREDITS)
Term 1: MWF 2:00-3:00 PM
Prof. Robert Rouse, Department of English
Office: Buchanan Tower 619, phone: 604-822-4071
This course introduces students to both the Middle Ages as a subject, and to the interdisciplinary nature of the study of the period. Through a progression of thematic sections, students encounter a range of historical, literary, and artistic material from medieval Europe. The course begins with the fall of Rome and the spread of the migratory tribes of Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Franks, etc.) across Northern Europe. Britain will be our case study for this early period, as we examine how the pagan Anglo-Saxons were converted by the Christian missionaries, thus becoming part of a wider medieval Christendom. From here we move to cover the social structure of the medieval world, taking as our guide the Dubyian framework of The Three Orders.
An important aspect of the course is an introduction to the material culture of medieval manuscripts. We shall spend three weeks in the middle of the course on this, making use of a visit to the UBC Rare Books and Special Collections to view and handle the fourteenth-century Compendium Theologicae Veritatis. Students will also work with digital facsimiles during this section of the course. Following this we will cover a number of themes further exploring medieval culture: the place of women and love; medieval food and medicine; and medieval Europe’s contact with the wider world. This last section will complete our journey from the Fall of Rome to Columbus’s voyage westward in 1492. This range of thematic sections will give students interested in medieval studies an exposure to a range of disciplines in the medieval field: history, religion, art, literature, music, and theory. In their research papers students will have an opportunity to pursue topics and fields in greater depth.
Students become familiar with the basic structure and nature of medieval society in preparation for upper-level courses in Medieval Studies (MDVL 310 and 490) and for disciplinary specific medieval courses within the wider Faculty of Arts. Primary texts and documents (translated into English) will be read in conjunction with secondary literature of scholars so students learn to critically evaluate how scholarly arguments are constructed based on primary evidence. The final research paper allows students to explore in further depth an issue or topic that has engaged them during the course. Assessment includes a midterm and a final exam.