Courses

Medieval Studies Courses, Fall 2020

ART HISTORY

Art History 415/715/Medieval Studies 415: Image and Text in Medieval Manuscripts
Prof. Thomas Dale
MW 2:30 – 3:45 Elvehjem L150

One of the most significant technological innovations in late antiquity was the invention of the parchment manuscript (hand-written book) as principal vehicle for the dissemination of the written word. This course offers an introduction to the art of medieval manuscript illumination from ca. 400 to 1500. We discuss such celebrated manuscripts as the Book of Kells (c. 800) and the Très Riches Heures of Jean Duc de Berry (ca. 1400). Students will be introduced to essential tools for identifying and interpreting manuscript illuminations and their texts, drawing on original examples in the collection of the Chazen Museum of Art, UW Special Collections, and the Newberry Library in Chicago. Particular emphasis will be placed on the relationship between images and texts, and the ways in which the figural and ornamental decoration contribute to the meaning and function of the manuscript within specific theological, liturgical, devotional, institutional and ideological contexts.  We will touch on a wide range of topics, including monsters and marginalia, bestiaries and books of natural history, books of hours and lay devotion, the macabre, mappaemundi (world maps) and scientific diagrams, romance literature and luxury liturgical books made for prelates and emperors. We will also explore the material, phenomenological and performative aspects of medieval books. We will also create an exhibition of medieval manuscripts depicting Jerusalem (in facsimile) for the Kohler Art Library to complement the Medieval Studies thematic programming on Jerusalem in the Medieval and Modern Imagination. One class per week will be devoted to lectures; the second class to discussion.  Evaluation will be based on class participation, catalogue entries, and a research paper.

Art History 515/815 Monsters in Medieval European Art
Prof. Thomas Dale
W 4:00 – 6:30 Elvehjem L166

Dragons, unicorns, dog-heads, werewolves, hell-mouths, and one-eyed giants are among the many monsters which populate the medieval and neo-medieval imagination.  They evoke simultaneously wonder, delight, horror and fear with their manifold hybrid combinations of species and bodily distortions. This seminar explores the origins and distinctive meanings and functions of monsters in medieval art and culture.  It is premised on the concept of the monster as product of the imagination that elicits thought about the human condition and the blurred boundaries between the animal and the human, a necessary corollary to humanity.  The term “monster” derives from the Latin word ‘monstrare”—to show or demonstrate—and since the early Middle Ages, monsters have been understood in European culture as manifesting through outward bodily form spiritual deformity or sin, supernatural or diabolical beings, the foreign or the other, and the unknown.  We will be looking at the intersection of natural history writing and images, religion and theology, politics and race.  The visual images are the primary sources we are focused on, but we will also introduce important literary texts and historical sources, and we will read broadly across the disciplines of Medieval Studies.  We will look at beasts and monsters in illuminated bestiaries, at caricature and physiognomic deformity, at monsters in monastic cloisters, at monsters, gender and sexuality, at the Plinian “monstrous races” and Wonders of the east, at monsters on maps, at the extension of monsters to the New World in the Age of Exploration, at “grotesques” and artistic invention, and finally at the revival of monsters in Neo-medieval imagination of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from the gargoyles of Notre-Dame to the orcs of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Evaluation will be based on regular participation in class discussion, an annotated bibliography, two oral presentations on a research paper, and a final research paper.

ENGLISH

ENG 423: Topic in Medieval Literature and Culture, Topic: Medieval Monsters and Wonders
Prof. Martin Foys
TR 9:30-10:45am Van Vleck B223
Prereq: Sophomore standing

Cross-Listed with Medieval Studies

Course Guide Description: In part, this is a fun course about monsters. But monsters are the easy part. Using Medieval England as its focus, this course looks at the reason we have monsters, by exploding the discussion out to the way societies perceive natural and supernatural wonder, to the constructions of race and racialized difference, and to how we use all of these notions to go about making our own local version of the world around us.  In the haunting words of heroic poetry, in the fantastic illuminations depicting wondrous races from the East, in medieval maps of the world, the gargoyles of a Gothic cathedral, the werewolves of a chivalric romance, anti-Semitic portrayals of medieval poetry– here and elsewhere ends, freaks, demons, beasts and those thought not quite human abound – defining the medieval world of western Europe by graphically embodying what attracted, repulsed, awestruck and horrified those who represented it, and most importantly by revealing what made it human.

ENG 427: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
Prof. Martin Foys
TR 1:00-2:15pm Van Vleck B231
Prereq: Sophomore standing

Cross-Listed with Medieval Studies

Course Guide Description: Study of the most famous and influential medieval English poet through his best-known work and its playful and profound responses to some of the most pressing literary, social, political, and spiritual issues of his time. Chaucer’s writings are some of the funniest, raunchiest, most socially scathing and radically experimental literature ever written in English. You would be surprised. You will be surprised. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is also one of the best literary bridges we have to understand how and why our modern world remains vitally connected to its own medieval past. Through a slow and careful reading and discussion that allows us to take our time with each work we study, the literary, cultural and political issues important to Chaucer will be revealed, as will his medieval wit, humor, and literary avant-gardism– along with a few seriously NSFW passages. We’ll also explore how Chaucer became a literary superstar (complete with his own fan fiction) after he died, and screen the modern film A Knight’s Tale (2001), to figure out why Chaucer, surprisingly and alarmingly, shows up as a wandering and naked gambling addict. Readings will be in modernized Middle English – but no prior experience with the language is required (it’s easier than you think – and will also teach you a lot about modern English along the way!).

ENG 520: Old English
Prof. Jordan Zweck
MWF 9:55-10:45am  224 Ingraham Hall
No previous experience with Old English is required.
Cross-Listed with Medieval Studies

This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to the language, literature, and culture of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066.  Because the English language has changed so much since c. 1100, Old English must be studied as a foreign language.  In the first half of the class, we will cover basic pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, while doing short translation exercises. In the second half of the semester, we will put the skills you’ve learned to work, tackling major works of Old English poetry and prose.  Because this is a language class, no papers will be required.  Instead, there will be regular translation exercises, quizzes, and exams.  This course is intended for students interested in medieval literature, linguistics, the history of English, and anyone who wants to know where orcs and ents come from.

GERMAN

GERMAN 391: German for Graduate Reading Knowledge

Prof. Salvatore Calomino
TR 11:00 12:15 482 Van Hise

This course is intended for those who wish to develop primarily reading skills in German.  A thorough presentation of German grammar will be coupled, from the start, with regular practice in reading and translation.  Various levels of academic prose will be covered with a twofold goal: participants will develop skills at comprehension in reading expository German in general; individuals will have the opportunity to begin reading German in their own research areas as well.

Required: Richard A. Korb, German for Reading Knowledge.  Cengage.  Most recent ed
Cassell’s German-English / English-German Dictionary.  Cassell & Co./ MacMillan. (or other equivalent dictionary)

LATIN

LT 563: Medieval Latin
Prof. Nandini B. Pandey
MW 2:30 – 3:45pm, Room TBA,
Prereq: Undergraduates who have taken Latin 302 or beyond, and grad students with a good working knowledge of Latin, are welcome to take this course. They can contact Prof. Pandey by email if they have questions about placement or work they might to do prepare this summer. (nandini.pandey@wisc.edu, Van Hise 966)

This course, which does triple duty as an advanced undergraduate and graduate Latin course and a service course for graduate students doing medieval research in other departments, aims to:

  • introduce you to some of the chronological, geographical, and generic range of medieval Latin;
  • enhance your appreciation for medieval thought, classical reception, and textual transmission;
  • develop your translation and analytical skills, critical independence, and historical context as a Latinist, culminating in your preparation of a commentary for class use and online publication.

We will proceed roughly chronologically, taking Vergil and his legacy as our general theme, but with room for you to pursue and share your own interests. This course presumes good prior working knowledge of classical Latin, but includes students with a wide range of backgrounds; please be considerate of this fact and communicative with me in designing exercises and/or extra sessions tailored to your interest group.

SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES

SCAND ST 407: Old Norse I
Prof. Kirsten Wolf
TR 9:30-10:45am 479 Van Hise

Objectives: The course has a linguistic purpose and is designed to give students a reading knowledge of Old Norse through the study of Old Icelandic grammar and selections of Old Norse-Icelandic texts.

Content: The course begins with with an introduction of Old Icelandic grammar through the study of Kenneth G. Chapman’s Graded Readings and Exercises in Old Icelandic. Next, students move to Michael Barnes’ A New Introduction to Old Norse. Part I: Grammar. At the same time, students read, translate, and analyze a selection of literary texts in Anthony Faulkes’ A New Introduction to Old Norse. Part II: Reader with the help of Part III: Glossary and Index of Names.

Learning outcomes: By the end of the course, students will have a basic understanding of Icelandic phonology and grammar with a focus on nominal and verbal inflection. (For a more in-depth understanding of verbal inflection and also syntax, it is recommended that students move on to 408 Old Norse II). Students will have sufficient vocabulary to be able to read and understand basic texts in normalized editions and access more challenging texts with the help of a dictionary.

SCAND ST 429/ Medieval 345: Mythology of Scandinavia
Prof. Scott Mellor
TR 1:00pm – 2:15pm 494 Van Hise
Prerequisites: Junior status or higher and 2 years of Scandinavian language.

An introduction to the Pre-Christian religion of Scandinavia, with readings in some of the primary sources (eddaic and skaldic poetry, Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, etc.) Second: broadens the definition of mythology to embrace concepts applicable to more recent literature and literary criticism.

SCAND ST 431/ History 431: History of Scandinavia to 1815
Prof. Scott Mellor
TR 11:00-12:15 494 Van Hise
Prerequisites: Sophomore status or higher.

Political, social, economic and cultural developments of Scandinavia through the “Viking Age” to the break-up of Sweden-Finland and Denmark-Norway; emphasis on the interplay between social and political forces and institutions and the area’s relationship with the rest of Europe.

SCAND ST 511: Paleography and Philology – Old Norse
Prof. Kirsten Wolf
TR 11:00-12:15 L173 Education Building

Objectives: This is a history of writing in Iceland ca. 1150-ca. 1700 on the basis of manuscripts as principal sources for Old Norse-Icelandic.

Content: The course builds on 407 Old Norse I and 408 Old Norse II and must be regarded as a continuation of the two courses. It provides a survey of the development of the Icelandic language from the 12th century until a couple of centuries after the Reformation and introduces students to the field of codicology. The history of writing and writing materials are treated in detail. The development of writing in Iceland and Norway from the introduction of Christianity (1000) until around 1700 will be examined on the basis of exercises in transcribing medieval manuscripts. Students will be trained in dating manuscripts on the basis of paleographic and orthographic features and introduced to the methods and principles of editing a medieval text.

Learning outcomes: By the end of the course, students will be able to transcribe an Old Norse-Icelandic manuscript and present both a diplomatic and normalized edition. They will be able to identify a variety of scripts (Carolingian, Carolingian-Insular, Gothic Formal, Gothic Formal Half-Cursive, etc.). They will also know how to date a text on the basis of paleographic and orthographic features.


Medieval Studies Courses, Spring semester 2020

ART HISTORY

Art History 305 History of Islamic Art and Architecture (Prof. Jennifer Pruitt)

This course surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts, and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India, and from the 7th through the 21st centuries. Attention will be focused upon the relationships between Islamic visual idioms and localized religious, political, and socioeconomic circumstances. In particular, lectures and readings will examine the vital roles played by theology, royal patronage, ceremonial practices, gift exchange, trade, and workshop practices in the formulation of visual traditions.

Art History 500/800 Architecture of the Arabian Gulf (Prof. Jennifer Pruitt)

This course will explore issues in modern and contemporary architecture in the Arabian Gulf. Beginning with issues in cultural heritage and destruction in Saudi Arabia and culminating in the explosion of “starchitect” (star architect) projects in the United Arab Emirates, the course will explore the role of local identity in the creation of global, contemporary architecture. Among the themes we will explore: the role of universal human rights in contemporary architecture; connections between the Gulf and the Indian subcontinent; connections between the Gulf and the West; the meanings and limits of globalism; architecture as politics; the role of museums and universities as controversial forms of architectural diplomacy; and innovations in urbanism and environmental planning.

Art History 515/815 Seminar in Medieval Art:  Representing Race from Antiquity to the Early Modern (Prof. Thomas Dale) Thursdays, 4:30-7:00 p.m., Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Room, L170

Pre-modern works of art and visual symbols have figured prominently in recent white supremacist and alt-right rallies and web sites, which promote false myths of ethically pre-modern nations to support current racist ideologies.  This seminar interrogates these claims, using art, architecture, literary texts and material and visual culture as lenses for exploring the complexity of pre-modern attitudes towards race and ethnicity.  Although race is a term that gained currency in the 18th century in support of theories of inherent of inherent biological differences that cast one group as inferior to another, this seminar we build on recent considerations of race that suggest that the roots of modern racism can be traced to cultural constructions of race in pre-modern societies.  We will trace both positive and negative aspects of the recognition of religious and ethnic difference.

A provisional list of topics includes:

1) Defining Race: Critical Race Theory, Racism and Ethnicity
2)  Monstrous and Cultural Pluralism and Empire in Greek and Roman Antiquity​
3) Jews and Christians:  Religious Resistance and Supersession in Late Antiquity​
4) Convivencia in Medieval Spain and Egypt ​
5) Saracens in Medieval and Early Modern Romance and Crusade​
6)  Black and White: Color and Race in Medieval and Early Modern Europe​
7) Monstrous Races​: From Pliny to World Maps
8) Pre-Modern Globalization and Orientalism​
9) Contemporary Racism and representations of the pre-Modern Past​

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE

Comp Lit 201: The Storyteller from Aesop to Cervantes  (Prof. Christopher Livanos)

We will study four of the world’s greatest collections of short stories: Aesop’s Fables, The Arabian Nights, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Cervantes’ Exemplary Stories. Stories in all of these collections can work to define communities, establish or question moral norms, and create a sense of collective or individual purpose. Traditional biographies of Aesop portray him as a mute slave miraculously gifted with speech who fascinated people with his storytelling and was later sentenced to death for telling stories that offended the powerful. Our discussion of his stories will examine themes of power, marginalization, and giving voice to the powerless. In our reading of selections from The Arabian Nights, we will continue to explore connections between storytelling, power, and survival as we study how Scheherazade saves her own life and the lives of her people by leaving a tyrannical monarch with cliff-hanger endings for 1001 nights, simultaneously providing him with much-needed moral education. Boccaccio’s Decameron shows ten young people passing time by telling tales in the countryside while seeking refuge from the Black Death then devastating Europe’s population. We will discuss how the stories they tell set the stage for the new world they will help create in the wake of the plague’s destruction. The course will conclude with Cervantes’ Exemplary Stories, continuing to examine storytelling traditions Cervantes picked up from his predecessors to use in his tales of love, piracy, witchcraft, and much more, ending with “The Dialogue of the Dogs,” the greatest dog story ever told, bringing us full circle back to the talking animal tales of Aesop.

COMP LIT 500: Madness and Sadness, and Love (Prof. Christopher Livanos)

We will examine the origins and development of the ways people describe love. Discussions will cover concepts such as “courtly love,” chivalry, “lovesickness,” and “love at first sight” as they have been represented in cultures including Ancient Rome, Medieval Arabia, The Southern France of the Troubadours, and the Italy of Dante and Petrarch. We will consider how these different cultures understood what love means, how Christian and Muslim cultures have understood the connection between human love and divine love, and the effects for good and bad that love is portrayed as having on the human psyche.

The first part of the course will be devoted to the Roman poet Ovid. We will then read works by Arabic poets of Medieval Spain, Occitan (Southern French) Troubadours, Guido Cavalcanti, and Dante—all of whom were tremendously influential on later poets as well as on modern ways of thinking about love. As we study the work and legend of the seventh-century Arabic poet Qays ibn al-Mulawwah (known as Majnun Layla, or “Crazy for Layla”)–we will explore the lasting impact of the idea that love is a form of madness or possession, and we will discuss patterns of cultural transmission from Arab Spain through Southern France and into the mainstream of Early Modern European literature.

We will then study how Petrarch used this broad range of influences, some direct and some indirect, in the composition of his Canzoniere, a pioneering work of autobiographical literature and psychological introspection as well as a masterpiece of lyric poetry.

ENGLISH

ENGL 177:  Tolkien, Beowulf and the Rise of Modern Fantasy (Prof. Martin Foys)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series were the books that launched the modern fantasy genre. But Tolkien was also a brilliant Oxford scholar of medieval literature, and used medieval literature as the foundation for all of his fantasy creations.

This class will first explore Beowulf, the Old English epic poem of heroes, feuds and monsters, using Tolkien’s own modern translation and others. We will also study the legacy of Beowulf today, through comic book, film and video game adaptations, as well as some other examples of medieval literature that inspired Tolkien.

We will then study the rise of modern fantasy through Tolkien’s own theories of fantasy, looking at material such as proto-fantasy (Grimm’s Fairy Tales), Victorian fantasy (Alice in Wonderland), the fantasy of Tolkien and his time, (The Hobbit, Narnia Chronicles, Conan the Barbarian), before ending with thinking about the state of popular fantasy today in books, film and television (Peter Jackson’s films, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series). During the course, we will tie our explorations to culturally relevant issues of past and present including: nationalism, the power of religion, effects of media and technology, social constructions of race, racism and gender, the nostalgic production of the past, and the transformative nature of language.

English/History/Religious Studies 360: The Anglo-Saxons (Prof. Jordan Zweck)

Who were the people who lived in what is now England over 1000 years ago? This class explores the history, literature, religion, art, and culture of the early medieval English. We explore a wide range of texts originally written in Latin and Old English that include fights with monsters, heartbreaking elegies, dirty riddles, bombastic sermons, and medical treatises. This semester, we’ll also be thinking about how to rename this course, given recent debates in the field regarding the name once given to the people of early medieval England: “The Anglo-Saxons.”

Over the semester, we will learn about how Early Medieval England came into existence, how it became Christianized, how it fought, assimilated, and fought again with Vikings, and how it all ended (or didn’t!) with the Norman Conquest. As a framework for the class, we will study the literature of the period (in modern translation), but we will also explore the period’s history, art, religion, architecture and everyday culture. We will also consider how Old English and Anglo-Latin literature has been adapted by modern writers, and why this early medieval culture continues to appeal to people today.

No previous experience with medieval literature and culture required!

English 803: Piers Plowman and the Arts of “Doing” in Late Medieval England (Prof. Lisa H. Cooper) Monday 2-4:30 (time slot to be confirmed)

We may think of “how-to” books as a recent invention, but this in fact far from the case. From the tenth through the fifteenth centuries, medieval readers turned with increasing frequency to a variety of texts that taught them how to manage daily affairs of all kinds and how to prepare for the afterlife; how, in short, to understand, regulate, and improve their lives. While the audience for such works was at first limited to monks and university schoolmasters, increasing lay literacy and, finally, the advent of printing greatly expanded the reach and the scope of didactic (that is, instructional) literature. This seminar seeks to explore this vast syllabus of “how-to” works by way of one of the most encyclopedic fictions of the late Middle Ages, William Langland’s alliterative and allegorical fourteenth-century poem Piers Plowman. Difficult but moving, frustrating but exciting in equal measure, Piers Plowman touches upon virtually every aspect of late medieval life through the dream vision of “Will,” the poet’s narrator, who finds himself on a quest to learn how and what it means to do well, do better, and do best. Piers is a poem about “doing” in many different senses of the word, and so in addition to attending to the poem qua poem (we will focus on what is known as the “B-text,” while also taking into consideration the versions known as A, C, and Z), we will also use it to think about the many ways to “do” things—and the many things that could be done—in late medieval England, frequently pairing our readings with related practical/instructional material in both verse and prose in order to do so. Members of the seminar will be invited to bring their own theoretical perspectives to bear on the reading, but we are likely also to consider together a number of theoretical methodologies on issues ranging from affect to action. No previous experience with medieval literature is required (indeed, in its encyclopedism, Piers is a very good introduction to late medieval English culture generally). We will be reading the poem in a facing-page Middle English/modern English edition (medievalists will be expected to focus on the original). Work for the course will likely consist of two short presentations and a final article-length essay; students will also participate in the building of a critical bibliography for the seminar as a whole.

Books (please have in hand before the course begins; they will also be at College Reserve; available Kindle editions are fine for the two secondary texts) § William Langland, Piers Plowman, ed. Elizabeth Robertson and Stephen H.A. Shepherd (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006). § Emily Steiner, Reading Piers Plowman (Cambridge University Press, 2013) § Michael Calabrese, An Introduction to Piers Plowman (University Press of Florida, 2017)

English/Medieval 521: Advanced Old English Lit (Prof. Jordan Zweck)

An intensive study of Beowulf read in the original language (Old English). Line-by-line translation of the text will be supplemented by discussion of related issues (whether linguistic, thematic, or contextual) as well as by readings from relevant critical literature. Open to graduate students as well as undergraduates.  PREREQUISITE: one semester’s study of the Old English language (English/Medieval 520 or equivalent).

GERMAN

German 392 – German for Graduate Reading Knowledge II (Prof. Salvatore Calomino)

Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m., Van Hise Hall, 140

 This course provides further practice in reading and translating German expository prose in a variety of fields.  At the start of the semester a review of both grammatical and syntactical topics vital to progress in reading will be combined with a discussion of selected chapters in R.A. Korb, Jannach’s German for Reading Knowledge.  During the balance of the semester specific reading will be made available through both photocopy and internet sources.  The goal for all participants will be enhanced practice and confidence in reading German at various levels of both scholarly and journalistic prose, in addition to developing a focus in reading for their specific research areas. Prerequisites:  Some previous acquaintance with German grammar or reading. Open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Required text:

  • Jannach, Hubert and Richard A. Korb, German for Reading Knowledge.  Heinle.  Most recent ed.
  • Cassell’s German-English / English-German Dictionary.  Cassell & Co./ MacMillan. (or other equivalent dictionary, unabridged)

 German 651 Introduction to Middle High German. (Prof. Salvatore Calomino) Tuesdays/Thursdays, 11:00-12:15

This course will introduce students to Middle High German grammar and vocabulary with the goals of fluency and accuracy in reading medieval texts.  Lectures and discussions will cover topics in phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon.  During the course of the semester students will read Das Nibelungenlied and a representative selection from various genres of Middle High German literature.  Class time will be devoted to translation and to discussion of grammatical/lexical topics.  Participants will write mid-semester and final examinations.

Required texts:

  • Paul, Mittelhochdeutsche Grammatik
  • Lexer, Mittelhochdeutsches Taschenwörterbuch (hardcover ed. if possible)
  • Weddige, Mittelhochdeutsch.  Eine Einführung.
  • Bartsch/De Boor, ed. Das Nibelungenlied.

ITALIAN

Italian 253: Lit Tans: Dante’s Divine Comedy (Prof. Jelena Todorović)

SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES

ScandSt 433; meets with Folklore, Medieval, LitTrans 345:  Scandinavian Tale and Ballad (Prof. Scott Mellor)  Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00-2:15

The genres of ballad and tale, which originate in the distant past, have often been scorned by the literary establishment, but the fact that they survived through centuries of oral transmission until they were finally recorded in the fairly recent past testifies to their lasting existential appeal. The stories these texts tell are dashingly entertaining and often deeply disturbing: they may offer a profoundly fatalistic view of existence, but they may also voice an angry and, at the same time, humorous protest against oppression. When this narrative type was discovered by scholars and the societal elite about 1800, it inspired many first-rank Nordic authors, e.g., Hans Christian Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, Selma Lagerlöf; and in the 20th century it has cast its spell over Isak Dinesen, Villy Sørensen, and Pär Lagerkvist and its influence has moved from literary to other media today. The course examines both the original literature and its modern “imitations” as well as gives an introduction to the critical methodologies that have recently been developed to deal with this seemingly simple, but in reality, highly sophisticated, narrative.

ScanSt 435 The Icelandic Sagas (Prof. Kirsten Wolf). Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9:30-10:45.

The course is designed to give students an understanding of saga literature as a genre and of the cultural history of Iceland in the Viking Era and the Middle Ages, based on the interplay between pagan codes of honor and Christian ethics. The course opens with a survey of the history of Iceland from its discovery until the end of the Icelandic Commonwealth (1262). A number of Sagas of Icelanders will be read and analyzed. Main points of discussion include the heroic ideal, codes of honor, concepts of fate, jurisprudence, and the role of women.

The final grade is determined as follows: two written examinations (midterm and final). For graduate students taking the course, two written examinations (midterm and final) and one class presentation are required.  Books to be purchased are: The Sagas of Icelanders. With a preface by Jane Smiley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000; Njal’s saga. Trans. Robert Cook. London: Penguin Books.