Consider this first reading from The Táin—bearing in mind that the first 8 tales are actually separate ones known as the remscéla, not directly part of the extended story of The Táin but connected to it. Considering all of these different narratives, what struck you about the ways one or more women are represented? You might focus narrowly on one woman, or offer a generalization that is appropriate to more than one woman.
Marie’s poems tend to focus on the desire of female character by men, such as in “Equitan” and “Le Fresnse” , rather than a woman being in love with a man. How does the man in a story “wanting” a woman and then pursuing her reflect Medieval ideals? How does the woman in “Equitan” challenge this trope?
In Marie’s poems, we have encountered some women who are certainly not idealized, such as Guinevere in Lanval; others who serve purposes that harm other women (for instance, the husband’s sister who tells on the wife in Yonec); and others who are punished within the text for their problematic behavior (the wife in Bisclavret, and perhaps the wife in Equitan).
Consider how Manne’s definition of the term “misogyny,” in the introduction you read for class on Jan 21, applies to one or more of these (or other) examples from within the lais of Marie de France. (In particular, the question is NOT about the “naive conception” of misogyny that Manne presents on p. 18 but rather the alternative understanding of misogyny that she develops in the introduction, on p. 19 and elsewhere.)
How is our understanding of culture through Medieval literature influenced by the disproportionate amount of writers at the time who came from ruling classes? (From Conrad-O’Briain, Were Women Able to Read and Write in the Middle Ages?)
How can we benefit from seeing women’s literature as cannon as opposed to non-cannon in relation to the quote “[Cannon] embodies the values of dominant social groups.”
In her Preface that you read for today, Kate Manne observes:
“[W]omen positioned in relations of asymmetrical moral support with men have historically been required to show him moral respect, approval, admiration, deference, and gratitude, as well as moral attention, sympathy, and concern. When she breaks character, and tries to level moral criticisms or accusations in his direction, she is withholding from him the good will he may be accustomed to receiving from her” (xviii).
Choose either Yonec or Lanval and describe how Manne’s observation here helps you understand an aspect of the medieval text.
Get yourself acquainted with the way I’ve structured the course by investigating the course blog. Here you should be able to find enough to give you an impression of the class before the semester begins January 8. In the course description (“our course” in the blog menu) and syllabus (“policies” and “schedule” in the blog menu), you’ll see that most of our coursework will be done here on the blog site—but with formal writing submitted, and related comments and grades posted, in OAKS. Take a look around, get familiarized, and feel free, please, to contact me with any questions that might arise before the first day: seamanm[at]cofc.edu.
Because I will be away at a badly-timed conference the first week of the semester, our first class meeting on Thursday, Jan 9 will be virtual. I have produced a video for you to watch instead, where I will introduce the course, walk you through the syllabus, and will provide you some activities to the start things off. All of this you should do on Jan 9 if not before. On Tuesday, Jan 14, we will meet in our usual classroom and will leap into discussion of the first items on the schedule. I’ll explain all of that on the first-day video, which I will email you about directly, once it is ready for viewing.