Shannon Gayk

1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

TOPIC: “Medieval Appetites”

From feasting to fasting, eating books to eating bodies, appetite is an important motif in medieval literature. In this course we will read widely in early English literature, considering allegorical pilgrimages, Arthurian legends, saints lives, medieval dietaries and advice books, and modern cinematic versions of medieval texts. In our discussions of these readings, we will focus on discourses of desire, appetite, and consumption and ask some of the following questions: What does food mean in medieval literature? What did people eat and how did they understand and represent their relation to food? What does food have to do with sex? With religion? What does the hungry body have to do with the hungry soul? What social and ethical issues are bound up with the production and distribution of food in late medieval England? Over the course of semester we will consider representations of: feasting, fasting, cannibalism, Eucharistic consumption, eating books, medieval ideas about health, and the ethics of eating.

Readings will include: Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, The Life of Saint Katherine, The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, and selections from medieval lyrics and dietaries. While many of the longer texts will be read or made available in translation, we will read some of the poetry in the original Middle English. Course requirements include daily attendance and active participation in discussion, several short writing assignments, two papers, and a midterm exam.