English 110

Medieval Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2010 Thornbury, Emily V.
Thornbury, Emily
TTh 2-3:30 110 Barrows

Other Readings and Media

Treharne, E., ed.: Old and Middle English, c.890–c.1450; Gardiner, E., ed.: Visions of Heaven & Hell before Dante; Borroff, M., trans.: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight/Patience/Pearl; Davies, S., trans.: The Mabinogion; a course pack


This course provides a tour of otherworld visions and journeys in the literature of medieval Britain. After looking at some foundational texts from antiquity that influenced writers up to the present day, we’ll examine the geography of the afterlife (heaven, hell, and purgatory), with a particular eye toward understanding how these transcendent realms reflected the more immediate concerns of medieval authors. We’ll consider the physical connection of these places to the normal world, as well as the moral connection they have to human lives; we’ll also look at texts that depict other, less transcendent worlds existing alongside our own. After taking this course, students will know how to find the airport nearest to Purgatory, and what to do if they end up in the fairies’ country: they’ll also be able to analyze the classic motifs and meanings of otherworldly vision literature.

No prior study of medieval literature is necessary. We will read most Middle English texts in the original, while texts in other languages (Old English, Latin, Old French, Middle Welsh) will be available in translation.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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