Medieval Arts & Humanities

University Honors 440
Section 01
Summer 2003: May 12–June 20
SLN 20875
MTWThF 1:30-2:45
Honors 142

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Avery Hall 355 — Washington State University
Hours: MTWTh 2:45-3:30, and by appointment.
Phone: 509-335-4832


Course Description:

Now that we all know that we’re an arbitrarily evolved and rather dorky species on one small planet out of nine with a yellow sun in an obscure corner of a second-rate bass-ackwards galaxy in an expanding universe, what is to be salvaged from a time before psychotherapy, chemotherapy, the meat industry, and hair-care “systems”? I hope it’s more than “quaintness.”

This section of Domain of the Arts is designed to acquaint you better with the human and thoughtful side to life through literature, music, art, architecture, food, and other accomplishments of the medieval world. The course will offer, just as the period’s arts themselves were supposed to, the ideal union of “sentence and solas” ­­ instruction and entertainment ­­ as we examine courtly, religious, and popular works from the so-called High Middle Ages (right around when love was invented) up to the so-called Renaissance (when everything went to hell). We will address the cultural implications of these materials ­­ that is, their impact in the minds and lives of those who have been influenced by them, and that includes ourselves.

I am particularly interested in how the principles and issues raised in this body of literature and art survive and arise in our own contemporary culture. I will encourage you to see and to make connections between ideas, attitudes, and cultures in classroom discussions, and to keep track of ideas currently circulating that interest you.

Course Objectives:

To gain exposure to medieval thought, art, and influence by poring over some of the major artistic works which have shaped our culture and the way we think.

To increase intellectual maturation and clarification of our own values through examination of ideas and attitudes in literary/cultural contexts and through articulation of these.

To develop skills in critical thinking, verbal analysis, and detection of subtlety through reading, discussion, and writing about literature and other artistic media.

Required Texts:

Dante. The Divine Comedy, Vol. I: Inferno. Trans. Mark Musa. NY: Penguin, 1984. ISBN 0-14-044441-6.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ed. James Winny. Lewiston, NY: Broadview Press, 1992. ISBN 0-921149-92-1.

[Lots of other crucial and cool materials will be provided in hand-outs, on various types of screens, and, if it proves possible, on plates.]

Course Requirements:

A significant part of your life this semester has to become medieval studies. Studying this stuff can be demanding, but at least we’ll be doing it together as a “learning community.” Because classroom interaction is essential for this to be a valuable experience, and because frequent quizzes and homework writings will be exchanged and no late assignments of any sort will be accepted, more than a few absences will affect your grade regardless of reason. Here’s the math:

I will frequently ask for relatively minor homework assignments to be turned in or posted to the Bridge, designed primarily to stimulate subsequent discussion and to practice conventions for writing about literature and the arts. At other times I will ask you to answer questions in writing in class, often ad lib responses to the reading before class discussion begins. Homework assignments and quizzes will receive numerical grades (points) and, although these writings cannot be made up (except for a couple optional writings that can take their place), the final semester totals will be curved if necessary.(30%)

You may be responsible for some sort of contribution to the learning community that may serve also as work towards one of the written projects: perhaps a brief but impressive lead-off presentation on a topic arranged in advance that is dazzling, informative, and glamorous, involving some research, or parallel outside reading, and possibly snazzy visual aids; or a handy web page. Class participation and other service to the learning community — occasional group work, for example — will be expected. (10%)

You will submit two written projects of manageable length.(30%)

Your presence will be kindly requested at two miserable exams.(30%)

[Lust for engagement with the period, Gluttony for knowledge, and Pride in your work are the only acceptable sins here. Sloth will be especially reprehensible and will be met with Ire.]

Medieval Arts & Humanities Index

Dr. Michael Delahoyde, Senior Instructor, Department of English
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