History | Medieval Heroes
B204 | 27257 | Shopkow
Above class carries Culture Studies credit
Above class open to undergraduates only
Above class fulfills the College Topics requirement
Well, heroes are fun, aren’t they? But a society’s heroes can tell
you a lot about that society. (Can you imagine Rambo or Forrest Gump
being heroes in any society but modern America?) So heroes are a
great way to learn about past societies. This course is an
introduction to the history of the Middle Ages in western Europe
through its heroes. What made people heroes in the Middle Ages? Who
can be a hero? Who can become a heroine? How did changes in
medieval society create changes in people's thinking about heroes?
And how do modern people see these medieval heroes?
I've chosen a mix of figures to represent the three periods of the
Middle Ages: the early Middle Ages (c. 300-c. 1000), the high Middle
Ages (c. 1000-c. 1300), and the later Middle Ages (c. 1300-c. 1500).
There are all kinds of heroes: saints, outlaws, kings and legends.
We'll look at what was going on when their stories were written and
why they became significant heroes.
There will be a textbook, Barbara Rosenwein’s "Short History of the
Middle Ages," so that you will have general background on the Middle
Ages and each week we will read one primary source reading--
something written in that period--because a central goal of the
course is for you to develop your ability to understand how
different kinds of primary sources differ from each other and to
begin to approach them the way an historian would.
To develop the necessary skills, you will have weekly assignments,
usually one to two page papers and you will sometimes be asked to
write in class as well. There will be a take-home essay final
examination as well. You will also participate in discussion
sections, so they will develop the ability to speak and reason
effectively aloud. A third skill, essential for historical study, is
the ability to read and interpret primary sources. We’ll work on
this skill throughout the semester as well.