site update (and comments thereon): online resources on criticism & commentary

It’s been updated: now the version I’m using for MDVL 302: European Literature of the 14th to the 16th centuries – “Criticism”. I still need to move copy some of my documents over to here: the links all currently work just fine and dandy, but taking you to UBC Blogs. The transition will be seamless, and the same stuff will of course stay up on both sites!

The attentive (and maybe even worried) reader may have noticed that this blog had gone from regular to slow to lethargic to immobile. It’s all right: it’s still alive and kicking. As am I. Just that

  • I have been doing other things: teaching, for the most part, and doing things attached to teaching, such a marking and panicking about the buildup of marking backlog and worrying and getting up really early in the morning (5ish, sometimes even 4.30) to get some of the mountain dealt with
  • consequent guilt-trips: work to be marked is still the material production of human beings . I’m afraid I persist, however block-headedly, in my heretical belief that students are humans, and humans just like any others. So I tell myself to stop feeling bad, mean, churlish, grumpy, etc. It’s not about them, but about the work and its accumulation. My students have worked hard, suffered, and are now suffering more through their patience (a passionate patience, coming up as we are to Easter?).
  • that in turn leads to displaced grumpiness: The System. Then again, plenty of other people work in the same system. Many have more teaching to do than I do, with more work coming in, more students, and even more of their time spent marking.
  • and getting up early in the morning means I’m completely shagged out by the late afternoon; brain often fried; cannot process new information, cannot think or write.
  • I’m aware that in writing this right now, I’m procrastinating further: I have marking to finish to return to students tomorrow and Tuesday! No, it’s not “ironic” (though, yes, I also need to do a couple of lectures on irony at some point: they may well start with the example / contrary exemplum of my marking…
  • also, I’ve been writing elsewhere, separate identities and pseudonyms. This isn’t entirely frivolous: it started out as an attempt to deal with writer’s block, produced some novel results on conversation and commentary, turned into a practical experimental wing of the current and next book projects, and is now immediately connected to Operation Courting Excess and its spin-offs, tangents, continuation. Regarding that book-project as a constellation, a fluid mobile rhizomal network, rather than a tree or (heaven forfent) a great big phall(ogocentr)ic monolith…

So. Not yet brain dead, though there have been several moments when I’ve felt the cold breath of burn-out over my shoulder. And I have managed to have the odd idea, and even the odd odd idea; sometimes to do with teaching, sometimes inspired by it or otherwise triggered by lateral thinking. Also some Lateran (4th Council) thinking.

Mais revenons à nos moutons (and the wolves hidden inside them). MDVL302. A fun course. For me anyway, and it seems that the students are enjoying it too, albeit not necessarily in the same ways as me, or for the same reasons. They’re doubtless also learning how to become sophisticatedly diplomatic (though not as much as the students on my other Medieval Lit course, whose theme is “intigue”!) Being a course on, about, around, in—and any other preposition you care to mention—criticism and commentary. C/o my course description, here’s how; posting this up here as it might prove useful to others out there in the ether:

Criticism pervades pre-modern European literature: across a range of kinds of writing, high and low, scholarly and popular, serious and light-hearted—even scathingly satirical. From a long continuing tradition of exegesis and commentary, through didactic works, to incorporation within works such as the Roman de la Rose and “quarrels” about and around them, we will see a subversive side to questioning and debate. It explores themes of social and religious critique, attacks hypocrisy and corruption, and develops ideas of privacy and identity, freedom of conscience and expression, and the figure of the public intellectual.

In this course we will explore various aspects of later Medieval literature through the theme of criticism, as expressed in a number of texts written in the Continental vernaculars and in Latin, and having an influence throughout Europe. While our principal focus will be the study of literary works, we will also explore the historical landscape in which these landmarks are situated; the cultural background against which their dramatic actions are staged; and their relationship to an integrated creative and intellectual environment–including visual and plastic arts, music, ideas, and the sciences.

Supplementary readings for term papers will include: the Old French fabliaux; Boccaccio, Decameron; Christine de Pisan and the querelle de la Rose; Alain Chartier, La Belle Dame sans merci and its querelle; the European Reynard tradition; Chaucer; Wycliffe; Till Eulenspiegel; Thomas More, Utopia; Rabelais; and Shakespeare.

The course is taught in English. All readings are provided in the original languages and in English translation. The term paper may be written in English or another language according to preference or program requirements.

Required reading:

Course website:

Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose
Trans. Frances Horgan.
Oxford World’s Classics, 2008.
ISBN: 978-0199540679

Renard the Fox
Trans. Patricia Terry.
University of California Press, 1992.
ISBN: 978-0520076846

Christine de Pisan, The Book of the City of Ladies
Trans. Rosalind Brown-Grant.
Penguin Classics, 2004.
ISBN: 978-0140446890

Fernando de Rojas, Celestina.
Trans. Peter Bush.
Penguin, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0143106098

Erasmus, The Praise of Folly and Other Writings.
Trans. Robert M. Adams.
Norton, 1989.
ISBN: 978-0393957495

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