our course

The Middle Ages ended right as the printing press arrived in England; today, in our Internet Age, we tend to think of print as a thing of the past, not the future. Now, the public shape of an electronic text can change moment to moment, written and revised by a global crowd of reader-authors. In the Middle Ages, a text — say, Chaucer¹s Canterbury Tales — varied from manuscript copy to manuscript copy, according to the particular tastes, skills, and aims of the scribe copying it (and the reader ordering it, and so on). Further, a literary text wasn’t constructed of black letters mechanically placed on a white page, with every copy of a text looking exactly alike and with each book looking very much like the next, as in the print era; instead, each individual manuscript appearance of a given text was generated by the marginalia and images, not to mention colored inks and a specific scribal hand. In Reading Medieval Manuscripts, we will investigate some of the effects the distinctive textual environment in which Middle English texts appeared had on the texts’ production and reception, and we will consider how the Digital Humanities might help us reach a more sophisticated understanding of medieval literary texts, opening up in the process new possibilities for how we understand authors and texts today. This class will focus on reading select Middle English texts as they appeared in medieval books, rather than only as they appear in our modern print editions.

This course fulfills the Lit in History: Pre-1700 area requirement of the English Major.

General Education Student Learning Outcomes, Humanities:

1. Students analyze how ideas are represented, interpreted or valued in various expressions of human culture.

2. Students examine relevant primary source materials as understood by the humanities area under study and interpret the material in writing assignments.

These outcomes will be assessed using Project 2.

Required textbooks:



Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts: Literary and Visual Approaches, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Maidie Hilmo, and Linda Olson.
ISBN: 978-0-80147-830-7





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The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Medieval Period, Vol. 1, 3rd ed.
ISBN 978-1-55481-202-8
(Save 20% when you order directly from the Broadview
website, using discount code: broadview20%)—
also available in PDF and ePub versions for $39.95 here