July is a quiet month around here at the best of times, medievally speaking–I generally try to keep June free for getting a bit of scholarly work done, but in the second half of the summer I need to do a little teaching (both to pay the bills and to help make sure that courses are available for our more motivated or desperate students). I’m teaching the second summer session at Bridgewater this year, and while I’m enjoying the challenge of a new course (the course is the second half of our British Literature survey), prepping topic lectures, quizzes, and discussion points on Pride and Prejudice, “Goblin Market,” or Waiting for Godot doesn’t leave me with a tremendous amount of time for getting much of my own work done. I’m still slogging away at the Beowulf movie-watching, of course, but that’s about all there’s been time for over the last couple of weeks.
Fortunately, the academic calendar has forced my hand, and over the next week or so I get to spend a fair amount of time cloud-picking through my bookshelves. It’s my turn to teach the Medieval Literature course again this fall, and I’m rebuilding my syllabus from the ground up–I’ve enjoyed the course tremendously the last two times I taught it, but I’ve decided that too much of the reading list overlapped other courses available to (or even required of) our majors. What’s needed is a certain amount of novelty–I’ll get to some Anglo-Saxon material, a few chronicles, a sampler of Chaucer/Langland/Pearl-poet/Julian of Norwich, et al., of course, along with a few other marquee players–but I also want to delve into some of the oddball stuff that doesn’t often make its way onto syllabi for lack of time or space. Dame Siriþ has long been a favorite of mine for this sort of need, but I’m also looking to include some homiletic material, King Horn, London Lyckpenny, a handful of the more eclectic poems offered by the always-handy TEAMS collections (eclectic and occasionally surprising–have any of you read “A Talk of Ten Wives on Their Husbands’ Ware” from Eve Salisbury’s Trials and Joys of Marriage collection?), and so on.
In short, I find myself in the enviable position of being able to choose the readings for a full-term course on British medieval literature, and I’m a little giddy. I’ve already got an agenda and a skeletal reading list, so this isn’t a plea for help so much as an invitation to dream.1 Assuming that all the usual suspects are covered either in another course or elsewhere in your syllabus, what less-studied text or texts would you love to teach if you had the chance?
1 Which, obviously, is not meant to suggest that I would have the slightest compunction about stealing any good ideas that come up.
One response to “Syllabus dreaming…”
I’ve always been a huge fan of the penitential romances: Sir Isumbras, Sir Gowther, etc. They are a ton of fun (who doesn’t love children being carried off by exotic animals?!), and I think students would find them surprising.