CourseEng 181.005, Fall 2015
TitleMedieval Heroes and Monsters
Time/PlaceT/R 1:00-2:15pm, Callaway N204
InstructorMs. Jenny Bledsoe
Office hoursTuesdays 2:30-4:30pm in Peet's Coffee (basement of Woodruff Library) and by appointment


“The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy …, giving them life and an uncanny independence. The monstrous body is pure culture. A construct and a projection, the monster exists only to be read: the monstrum is etymologically ‘that which reveals,’ ‘that which warns.’” – Jeffrey Jerome Cohen

The lives of the saints should “prouffyte to all them that shal rede or here to redde, [and] … may encrease in them vertue and expelle vyce and synne that by the ensaumple of the holy sayntes amende theyr lyvyng here in thys shorte lyf,” and these texts should also “incyte and exhorte men and wymmen to kepe them from louthe and ydlenesse.” – William Caxton (c. 1415-1492)

In this course, students will develop critical reading, analytical writing, and rhetorical presentation skills while exploring the way that exemplarity and monstrosity are constructed in medieval literature and art. Reading assignments include The Voyage of St Brendan, John Mandeville’s Travels, The Hammer of Witches, medieval saints’ lives, romances, sermons, chronicles, and visual narratives of monsters and heroes in manuscripts, stained glass, and wall paintings. All texts in the course engage with the question of exemplarity broadly, including the rhetorical strategies authors use to construct heroes and the ideological motivations for labeling certain figures as monstrous. Reading and writing assignments will engage with the visual as a form of “text” or argument, and students will compose in multiple modes, including traditional written essays, oral presentations, and a final multimodal research project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *