21L.460 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Medieval Literature: Love, Sex, and Marriage


The assignments consisted of papers, quizzes, presentations, and an online forum open only to the students enrolled in this class at MIT. The forum is not available to the public.

First paper

A relatively informal reflection on your experience as a student with reading Middle English, with reference to Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale. You’ll be asked to think about a particular passage that challenged you and about what one gains and loses by translating Chaucer into Modern English. About 1000 words.

Second paper

An essay discussing either Chrétien de Troyes’ Knight of the Cart or Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale in conversation with another shorter text we’ve read thus far. This paper will be revised and resubmitted. About 1500–2000 words.

Third paper

A more substantial essay on a text and topic of interest to you. I will provide some possible topics, but I encourage you to develop your own in consultation with me. About 2000–2500 words.

Reading quizzes

Between daily and weekly, there will be a brief reading quiz at the beginning of class. In some cases, these will help me assess your understanding of Middle English; they are also designed to reward consistent effort and preparedness on your part. Apart from medical absences or other extraordinary circumstances, you cannot make them up, but I will drop your lowest three grades. Averaged together, these quizzes will count for 15% of your grade.


After signing up for a date at the beginning of the semester, each student will give a brief oral presentation (about 10 minutes) on “medievalism” concerning the texts and topics in our course. By “medievalism,” I refer to post-medieval efforts to revive—and revise—medieval texts, figures, practices, and ideas. Topics may include representations of King Arthur, courtly love and contemporary romance fiction, medieval fairs / dining attractions, the medieval(ish) world on television, etc. You will be free to choose an instance of medievalism that you find interesting and fun, and topics may be repeated if they move in substantively different directions (e.g. one student may speak on T. H. White’s Arthurian novel The Once and Future King and another on the TV series Merlin).

MIT online forum

To enrich our class discussion and your individual understanding, you are also required to make short posts to an online forum on each class day. These very brief posts can be questions about what you read (even something as basic as a line of Middle English you couldn’t figure out), comments about what you found interesting or confusing, remarks on medievalism (see above), or responses to a fellow student’s post. These response threads are encouraged—our conversation should not stay confined to the classroom! Your posts should not take up much time; I am looking for substance rather than length. While you may occasionally miss a day, please be aware that more than a few lapses will lower your class participations grade.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments
Activity Assignments