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ENGL 502 A: Manuscript Studies

Compilational Reading and Middle English Romance

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
ECE 042
Kate Norako photo
Leila Kate Norako

Syllabus Description:

Course Schedule 502 Winter 20.docx


Compilational Reading and Middle English Romance

This seminar, which fulfills the manuscript studies requirement for the Textual Studies certificate, will both introduce graduate students to the capacious genre of late Middle English romance and invite students to explore the radically different ways in which these texts have been received over time. The first half of the course will situate students in the genre and tradition of late Middle English romance through the study of a select number of texts (such as Isumbras, Richard Coer de LyonSir Gowther, and Sir Eglamour of Artois). Particular attention will be paid to the representation of gender and also premodern race-making that medieval romance frequently enacts in its world-building. To that end, we will have the pleasure of hosting Geraldine Heng in the first week of the course whose landmark books Empire of Magic: Medieval Romances and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy and The Invention of Race in the Middle Ages have encouraged increased attention to the formation of premodern racialized discourse. 

The second half of the course will build off of this work and invite students to investigate how our readings shift once we begin to consider not only the manuscript provenance of these texts, but the ways in which the texts are positioned and compiled, drawing inspiration from Arthur Bahr’s innovative book Fragments and Assemblages. We will focus directly on Arthur Bahr’s work in Fragments and Assemblages, where he invites those who study medieval literature to read “compillationally,” and we will have the pleasure of having him visit at mid-quarter to discuss his past and current work. In this portion of the course, we will revisit the romances covered in the first half of the class, exploring how our understanding/interpretations shift when we encounter these texts in ways that account for their material manuscript contexts (especially as their meaning might be informed by the other texts with whom they share textual space, and also how the compilers selected the works in question and ordered them in the manuscript). Our work will involve reading other texts housed in the same manuscript, visiting our rare books library, participating in a scribal workshop (the TS department is helping me purchase quills, iron gall ink, and parchment), and more.

To accommodate the various needs and goals of the students in the class, I will be inviting students to choose from a menu of assignments in order to fulfill the course requirements. This menu will encourage students to pursue tracks goals (pedagogy, research, archival, and digital) that are of greatest relevance and interest to them and their career. Students will be invited to review the menu during the first week of the course and submit a proposal in Week 2. If students interested in the course want to see the assignment menu in advance, they should feel free to email me at

Catalog Description: 
An examination of the theoretical and methodological issues attending the study of written texts including literacy, circulation, production, and reception in Premodern genetics, and archival research methods.
Last updated: 
October 28, 2019 - 9:27am