Our Medieval Inheritance, Spring 2006


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When modern people think of the Middle Ages, they typically imagine a dark history full of famine and plague, ignorance and tyranny– a time when society and technology were backward, archaic, and irrelevant. Yet, such simplistic stereotypes misrepresent the rich, vibrant, energetic cultures of the western medieval culture. In this course, we will explore some of the ideas and expressions arising in the time between 500 and 1500 that have become integral parts of U.S. culture in the 21st century. Among other subjects, we will examine the medieval legacy of heroic epics, the quest for spiritual fulfillment, feminist thought, troubadour poetry, chivalric ethics, moral allegories, bawdy humor, and illuminated books. Through vigorous discussion, concentrated thinking, energetic writing and dynamic oral presentations, we will focus particularly on how medieval attitudes and traditions live on disguised, but still thriving, in contemporary U.S. consciousness.

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