English 190

Research Seminar: The Medium Is the Message: Reading Poetry in Manuscript & Print, 1300-1600

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2016 Bahr, Stephanie M
TTh 9:30-11 50 Barrows Pre-1800 Requirement
Middle English
Renaissance and Early Modern
Research Seminars

Other Readings and Media

Primary Works: A course reader including selections from the following: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and 16th-c. Apocrypha; Malory's Morte d' Arthur; Sir Orfeo, the Findern Manuscript; the Devonshire Manuscript; Tottel's Miscellany; lyric poetry of Wyatt and Surrey; Golding's Metamorphoses; Sidney's Defense of Poetry; Spenser's Faerie Queene.

Secondary Works: Selections from: Cultural Reformations: Medieval and Renaissance in Literary History, ed. Brian Cummings & James Simpson; Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan; The Marketplace of Print: Pamphlets and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England, Alexandra Halasz; Fragments & Assemblages: Forming Compilations in Medieval London, A.W. Bahr; English handwriting, 1400-1650: an introductory manual, Jean F. Preston & Laetitia Yeandle; The Medieval Book, Barbara A. Shailor; Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, William Sherman.


Modern readers almost exclusively encounter medieval and Renaissance literature in highly mediated anthologies and scholarly editions, far removed from the manuscripts and early print books in which they first circulated. In this course, we will peer behind the veil of modern editions for a vibrant look at this literature in its original context. How might our often static understanding of canonical literature change when read in idiosyncratic volumes full of scribblings, where doodles cover up transcription errors? How should we read a love lyric when it rests beside a storeroom inventory, or a misogynist poem whose refrain is rewritten to praise rather than mock women? A broad range of English readers participated in their literary culture in ways that can shape our own reading. We will examine how books were made, read, and circulated—censored and even smuggled—and how these practices changed with the emergence of the printing press. How did medieval and Renaissance poets respond to the materiality of their works and the particularities of their medium? In the words of Marshall McLuhan's famous aphorism, was the medium the message?

To help you engage these questions, you'll learn skills in both codicology (the study of material books) and paleography (the study of historical handwriting), working with digital resources and the Bancroft Library's rare books collection. These new skills will complement your training as close readers of literature and will bring material books into your analysis. This will enable you to interpret not just individual works by Chaucer, Wyatt, Surrey, etc. in isolation, but collections of works—to reconstruct the cultural logic by which multiple works were assembled in particular orders and to analyze the new meanings these compilations generate. We will also consider the implications of page layouts, illustrations, marginalia, and commonplacing, as we study the broader literary culture of the middle ages and Renaissance.

This section of English 190 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Trials of Literature: Romanticism, Justice, and the Law Langan, Celeste
190/2 Research Seminar: James Joyce Flynn, Catherine
190/3 Research Seminar: Hawthorne & Melville Tamarkin, Elisa
190/4 Research Seminar: Reading Walden Carefully Breitwieser, Mitchell
190/5 Research Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Wagner, Bryan
190/6 Research Seminar: Sixty Years Since: The Historical Novel Kolb, Margaret
190/7 Research Seminar: Contemporary Historical Fiction Yoon, Irene
190/8 Research Seminar: Literary Theory and Its Objects Creasy, CFS
190/9 Research Seminar: The Faerie Queene: The Ethics of Imagination Landreth, David
190/10 Research Seminar: Pagan Fictions in Christian Literature Hobson, Jacob
190/11 Research Seminar: Andrew Marvell Picciotto, Joanna M
190/12 Research Seminar: California Books and Movies Since World War I Starr, George A.
190/13 Research Seminar: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Britain in the ‘60s Gang, Joshua
190/2 Research Seminar: The Historical Novel Puckett, Kent
190/3 Research Seminar: Another Day in Purgatory: Irish Literature and the Afterlife Creasy, CFS
190/6 Research Seminar: Literature and Revolution Lee, Steven S.
190/7 Research Seminar: Monsters, Exiles, and Outlaws in Medieval Literature Hobson, Jacob
190/8 Research Seminar: George Eliot and the Realist Novel Kolb, Margaret
190/9 Research Seminar: Historiography and Narrative: Literature and the Interstices of History Jones, Donna V.
190/10 Research Seminar: Suspicious Mind Best, Stephen M.
190/11 Research Seminar: Nonsense Hanson, Kristin
190/12 Research Seminar: Making Memories Yoon, Irene
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia
190/2 Research Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Wagner, Bryan
190/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Linguistic Turn Blevins, Jeffrey
190/4 Research Seminar: Jane Austen and the Theory of the Novel Miller, D.A.
190/5 Research Seminar: Writing a World in Crisis: Medieval and Modern Perry, R. D.
190/6 Research Seminar: Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global Bahr, Stephanie M
190/7 Research Seminar: Place-Love: Fiction and the Melancholy of Form Xin, Wendy Veronica
190/8 Research Seminar: Literatures of the Ocean Sorensen, Janet
190/9 Research Seminar: Beowulf Thornbury, Emily V.
190/10 Research Seminar: Hollywood in the 1930s Knapp, Jeffrey
190/11 Research Seminar: The Literature of Immortality Jones, Donna V.
190/13 Research Seminar: California Literature & Film Since WWI Starr, George A.
Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John
190/2 Research Seminar: Slow Seeing / Slow Reading Hejinian, Lyn
190/3 Research Seminar: Moby-Dick, and More Otter, Samuel
190/4 Research Seminar: U.S. Modernism Goble, Mark
190/5 Research Seminar: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
190/7 Research Seminar: Note new topic: Troy and Tragedy Perry, R. D.
190/8 Research Seminar: James / Baldwin Best, Stephen M.
190/9 Research Seminar: On Style Xin, Wendy Veronica
190/10 Research Seminar: Do I Dare? Indecision and Modernist Literature Blevins, Jeffrey
190/11 Research Seminar: Modern California Literature and Film Starr, George A.
190/12 Research Seminar: Modern Utopian and Dystopian Literature and Film Starr, George A.
Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Sixties Goble, Mark
190/2 Research Seminar: Through a Future Darkly: Global Crisis and the Triumph of Dystopia Danner, Mark
190/3 Research Seminar: Late Henry James Breitwieser, Mitchell
190/4 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia
190/5 Research Seminar: Contemporary British Literature and Culture Falci, Eric
190/6 Research Seminar: Classical and Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey
190/7 Research Seminar: Materiality: How the Physical World Is Made to Mean Flynn, Catherine
190/8 Research Seminar: Vital Texts: Literature and the Discourse of Life Gaydos, Rebecca
190/9 Research Seminar: Medieval and Renaissance Lyric Crosson, Chad Gregory
190/10 Research Seminar: Purcell and Handel: Their Art in Setting English Texts to Music Hanson, Kristin
190/11 Research Seminar Lee, Steven S.
190/12 Research Seminar: Daniel Defoe and the Rise of the 18th-Century Novel Starr, George A.
190/13 Research Seminar: Keats and Literary Tradition Francois, Anne-Lise

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