Review of Week 1: Aug 24 (by Dr. Seaman)
I’m offering the Weekly Review for Week 1, in part because there’s little to review and in part to offer a model for your future reviews. Bear in mind that those will have quite a bit more to cover, since we met only once this week, and that was introductory and committed to discussing course requirements rather than course content.
This week we got our grounding for the semester to come by, on day 1, going over the class policies and schedule and briefly getting to know one another, especially through the first blog posts. We talked very briefly about: medieval culture; Breton lays; object-oriented theories such as Actor-Network Theory, Speculative Realism/OOO; Vibrant Materialism (all of which are introduced on the “Our Course” page). Then we worked on Middle English Exercise 1, comparing a Chaucer poem in Middle English to a Modern English translation to see what we might conclude about the two varieties of English in relation to one another.
[Here, in the future, you will include passages from the reading that we discuss in some depth in class, as well as any observations offered or questions posed by students that directed our discussion in productive and significant ways. Day 1 didn't offer much of this.]
[Here in the future you will include any key terms that come up in the reading and/or class discussion.]
Preview of next week:
Our first full week of class will be spent gaining a little more familiarity with Middle English, in terms of its relation to Old English and Modern English (with Middle English Exercise 2: A Brief History of English on Monday) and its lexicon (which is to say, its word stock/vocabulary, via Middle English Exercise 3: Lexicon on Wednesday).
We will also have our first encounter with medieval Breton lays, the first one on Monday by Marie de France, who was writing in Anglo-Norman at the English court in the 12th century and seems to have established the written tradition of this particular type of romance narrative. The second will be on Wednesday and will be in Middle English, the 14th-century lay Sir Cleges. In both cases, we will be reading these texts from what might be called a “typical” literary critical perspective, rather than from an object-oriented one. This will provide a sort of benchmark for what follows in the semester. We will encounter both of these poems again, later in the semester after we’ve read some object-oriented theory and criticism.
We will set the stage for upcoming readings in Thing Theory and Vibrant Materialism by reading about subjectivity, which in one form or another has been a central concern of the Humanities, including literary study, over the past three centuries and more. This reading comes from Theory Toolbox, a key text in ENGL 299, so if you’ve taken that course, this reading will be familiar.