English 516: Chaucer and the Learned Tradition

Spring, 1997
Dr. Jane Chance
2-5 M
Rayzor 317

Subjectivity and concepts of the self informed the dream vision poems of Chaucer because of a continuing learned tradition of allegory as mask, persona, beginning with Alain de Lille's Complaint of Nature and Anticlaudianus in the twelfth century and Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun's Romance of the Rose in the thirteenth century.

This tradition of philosophical debate over the nature of the self continues with John Gower's dream vision allegory Confessio Amantis in the fourteenth century and Christine de Pizan's autobiographical Lavision in the fifteenth century. Underlying their narratives are subtexts involving gender and (homo)sexuality, political theory, and (Aristotelian) theories of the self, soul, and sexuality.

Texts (On Reserve):

Recommended (On Reserve):

  • Sylvia Huot and Kevin Brownlee, eds., Rethinking the Romance of the Rose: Text, Image, Reception (Pennsylvania, 1992).
  • James Simpson, Sciences and the Self in Medieval Poetry: Alan of Lille's "Anticlaudianus" and John Gower's "Confessio Amantis" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

    Outside Reading:

    Requirements: frequent ungraded short papers, one 15-25 pp. Seminar paper


    Week 1: Introduction: Nature, Gender, and the Self in the Middle Ages

  • Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, Chap. 6, "the Goddess Natura," pp. 106-27
  • Martin Stevens, "The Performing Self in Twelfth Century Culture"

    Week 2: Geoffrey Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules"

  • Geoffrey Chaucer, Parlement of Foules
  • Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, Book 1, Chapters 2-5
  • Aristotle, On Generation and Corruption; On the Generation of Animals, Excerpts

    Jan. 24 Fri. @ 4: Required Guest Lecture: Professor Geraldine Heng, English Department, University of Texas-Austin, "Cannibalism, the First Crusade, and the Genesis of Arthurian Romance," Kyle Morrow Room

    Week 3: Geoffrey Chaucer, "Hous of Fame"

  • Virgil, Aeneid, Bk. 4
  • Ovid, Heroides, Letter of Dido to Aeneas

    Week 4: Twelfth Century Culture: The Advent of Subjectivity, (Homo)Sexuality, and the Self

  • John Benton, "Consciousness of Self and Perceptions of Individuality," Culture, Power, and Personality in Medieval France (Hambledon Press, 1991), pp. 327-56.
  • John Boswell, "The Triumph of Ganymede: Gay Literature of the High Middle Ages"
  • Gerald Bond, The Loving Subject, Chaps. 1-2

    Week 5: Alain de Lille, De planctu Naturae

  • Alain de Lille, De planctu Naturae
  • Elizabeth Grosz, "Refiguring Bodies" and "Sexed Bodies"

    Feb. 13, Thurs., @ 5: Required Guest Lecture, Terry Castle, English Dept., Stanford University, "Lesbianism and the Aesthetic: The Case of Mademoiselle de Maupin"

    Week 6: Alain de Lille, Anticlaudianus

  • Alain de Lille, Anticlaudianus
  • Aristotle, On the Soul, Excerpts
  • James Simpson, Sciences and the Self in Medieval Poetry,, chaps. 1-4

    Week 7: Guillaume de Lorris, Roman de la Rose

  • Guillaume de Lorris, Roman de la Rose
  • Emmanuele Baumgartner, "The Play of Temporalities; or, The Reported Dream of Guillaume de Lorris" in Huot and Brownlee, Rethinking the "Romance", pp. 21-38
  • Karl Uitti, "'Cele [qui] doit estre Rose clamee' (Rose, vv. 40-44): Guillaume's Intentionality," in Huot and Brownlee, pp. 39-64

    Week 8: Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose

  • Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose
  • Thomas D. Hill, "Narcissus, Pygmalion, and the Castration of Saturn"
  • David F. Hult, "Language and Dismemberment: Abelard, Origen, and the Romance of the Rose,' in Huot and Brownlee, pp.101-130

    Week 9: Heldris de Cornauille, Silence

  • Heldris de Cornauille, Silence
  • Peter Allen, "The Ambiguity of Silence: Gender, Silence, and Le Roman de Silence"
  • Terry Castle, "The Apparitional Lesbian"

    Week 10: John Gower, Confessio Amantis

  • John Gower, Prologue and Book 1
  • James Simpson, Sciences and the Self in Medieval Poetry, chap. 5, "Ovidian Disunity in Gower's Confessio Amantis," pp. 134-66

    Week 11: John Gower, Confessio Amantis

  • John Gower, Books 2-8
  • James Simpson, Sciences and the Self, chaps. 6-9, pp. 167-299

    Week 12: Christine de Pizan Lavision-Christine

  • Christine de Pizan Lavision-Christine
  • Kevin Brownlee, "Discourses of the Self: Christine de Pizan and the Romance of the Rose," in Huot and Brownlee, pp. 234-261
  • Sylvia Huot, "Seduction and Sublimation: Christine de Pizan, Jean de Meun, and Dante"

    Weeks 13 and 14: Seminar Papers

  • I can be contacted at: jchance@ruf.rice.edu or 713-527-8101x2625.

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    Updated January 12, 1997
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