FRENCH 651/COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 790/WOMEN’S STUDIES 698:
Gender and Sexuality in Medieval France
In this course we will read medieval literary texts alongside theoretical work in feminist, gender, queer, and sexuality studies, and work in medieval sexuality studies. Our goal will be to explore how modern theory might shape our understanding of medieval texts, but also to understand how medieval texts may reshape modern theoretical understandings of gender and sexual identities and affects.
“Demons, Werewolves, and Other Marvelous Beings: The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages”
In this course we will read a variety of fictional, historical, and religious narratives about marvelous or supernatural beings (demons and werewolves, the devil, a bird-man, a fish-knight and a wild man) in order to investigate ways in which medieval people understood the supernatural. We will explore religious beliefs about divine or demonic beings and popular beliefs about marvelous animal-human beings, and we’ll seek to discern medieval understandings of the natural and the supernatural, the human and the nonhuman, the miraculous and the marvelous.
Students will gain an introductory knowledge of medieval culture and literature, along with an understanding of the ways in which history, religion, and imagination shape medieval narratives. Skills to be developed in the class: written and oral French, including grammar and pronunciation; facility in reading French; close reading and analysis of texts; translation practice. Requirements include careful preparation and participation in class discussions, regular short writing assignments, two 3-5 page papers in French, and a final exam. Assigned readings will be available in a course pack.
WOMEN’S STUDIES 801/ COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 750/ FRENCH 680:
“Feminism, Posthumanism, and the Humanities”
In this course we will read a variety of theorists, some but not all explicitly feminist, in an exploration of critical posthumanism and its relationship(s) to feminism. How are ethical and political engagements (re)defined when human exceptionalism is unsettled and when values are defined in a post-anthropocentric world? What happens to gender? And what happens to the humanities?
FRENCH 855/COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 750:
Sovereignty, Animality, and Intimacy in Medieval French Romance
In this seminar we will explore the relationship between animality and sovereignty as posited in theoretical texts and as represented in selected medieval French narratives. We will ask how representations of animal-human relationships speak about sovereignty and the human, about agency and animality, and about embodiment and intimacy.
The seminar offers the opportunity to study some fundamental works in animal studies as they address questions of sovereignty and intimacy, and to use those theoretical tools to explore representations of animal-human relationships in literary works; it also offers an introduction to medieval French literature and in particular, to romance narratives. Prior knowledge of animal studies or of medieval literature is not required, and the seminar should be useful to any student interested in gaining a broader understanding of contemporary theory and developing a methodological toolkit for engaging with literary texts in any period.
All texts will be available in modern French and English translations, and the seminar will be conducted in English.
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 751/FRENCH 651/WOMEN’S STUDIES 698:
Animal, Human, Woman: Medieval, Early Modern, Postmodern
Co-taught with Professor Valerie Traub
This seminar explores the role and function of concepts of embodiment (including race, gender, and sexuality) in definitions of the human. The first part of the seminar is devoted to devising a theoretical repertoire drawn from theorists not primarily known for their interest in gender, but who have provided influential theories of disciplinarity, sovereignty, the biopolitical, and the posthuman (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, Hacking and Latour). In the second part of the seminar, we will use these theories to think through issues of agency and power in relation to species, gender, sexuality, and race. We will focus on three literary case studies. The first is a cluster of intertexts that recount the story of Narcissus across the medieval and early modern periods in English and in French (all French texts available in English translation); the second is a narrative of cross-dressing and sex transformation, originally in Ovid’s tale of “Iphis and Ianthe” and subsequently refigured in John Lyly’s stageplay, Gallathea; the third is Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Throughout the semester we will consider the tension, in both theory and literary representation, between being and becoming, stasis and generation, the fixity of classification and its constant undoing through hybrids, border-crossings, and ideals and fears of merger.
Approaches to Feminist Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Co-taught with Professor Robert Wyrod
What is feminist scholarship and how is it done? And what does it mean to claim that scholarship is feminist? This course explores these questions through comparative analysis of scholarship by feminists working in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. We will examine fundamental topics in feminist research, including the politics of knowledge production, forms of evidence, connections between lived experience and authority, the role of the researcher in the research process, and intersections of inequalities and identities. The overall goal of the course is to help graduate students enrich their own scholarship through a deeper understanding of feminist methodologies.
Varieties of Translation in Medieval France
This course is part of the LSA theme semester on translation. Through the perspective of the Middle Ages, we’ll explore questions at the heart of the theme semester: Where do we encounter translation in our daily lives? What is translation? Who translates? Why translate? What lessons do we learn from translating? How can we make translation more visible? In addition, we’ll ask: what happens when texts are translated from one language to another, or from one medium to another? What gets translated along with language and story?
More broadly, we will explore the various ways in which translation is part of medieval culture. The first part of the course will help you build a translation toolkit. We’ll read articles and primary text to learn about the languages of medieval France; the transition from oral to written vernacular languages; the importance of antiquity as a political, cultural, and intellectual model for the Middle Ages; some religious meanings of translation; and finally, the translation of the Middle Ages into modern representations.
That reading will inform our work in the rest of the semester. We will read Chrétien de Troyes’s Conte du graal (the earliest written story about the holy grail), and then we’ll explore how other medieval and modern writers and filmmakers translate the grail into new forms. At the end of the semester we’ll turn to a few short narratives (selected lais by Marie de France), to explore some other aspects of medieval translation.