English 212

Readings in Middle English: The Auchinleck Manuscript

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2012 Miller, Jennifer
Miller, Jennifer
W 3-6 205 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

All the material for this course is available online at the National Library of Scotland's Auchinleck Manuscript website (http://auchinleck.nls.uk/).  Students are advised to familiarize themselves with the website before the course begins.


This course will consider a wide range of Middle English writing through examination of a single manuscript book surviving to us from the early fourteenth-century:  Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates' MS 19.2.1, now known as 'The Auchinleck Manuscript', first brought to public attention in 1804 when Sir Walter Scott published an edition of one of its texts.  The manuscript, produced by a number of scribes working in tandem and by design, is central to our construction of a Middle English literary corpus, containing as it does the earliest surviving versions of many Middle English texts and, in many cases, the only surviving versions.  Growing out of the multilingual book-world of the previous century (in which Latin, Anglo-Norman French and English share space on the page and throughout the book, implying readers comfortable with code-switching and reading across multiple native vernaculars), the Auchinleck Manuscript is especially remarkable in its monolingualism (it is virtually English-only), a monolingualism reiterated in the disciplinary divides of our national language departments.  Where did this book come from? for whom was it produced? what does it aim to accomplish or project?  The course will provide introductory access to Middle English literature while wrestling with the larger theoretical and cultural issues implicated by the Auchinleck Manuscript's peculiar features.  Medievalists are, of course, welcome, but a particular invitation is extended to those working in Romantic and post-Romantic medievalisms, in post-colonialism and emerging nationalisms, in the history of the language or the relation of language to ethnicity, and to those interested in the dialogue of text and image--since the Auchinleck Manuscript deviates from its predecessors, too, in supplying images (some of them now excised or erased--a trace of Protestant iconoclasm?) to accompany the works it anthologizes.  The course will, I hope, become a forum for mutually enlivening and enlightening discussion across our various fields of interest and expertise.

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