Dreams, visions and apparitions are constitutive of medieval literature writ large. They are ubiquitous in hagiographical writings, academic commentaries, theological treatises and poetic compositions. They often inaugurate treatises and tales, raise expectations, fulfill or even frustrate audience expectations. Wherever they occur, they offer a space for thinking through the relations between the real and the visionary, between the historical and the fantastic, between the empirically verifiable and the spiritually valuable, between medieval discourses or disciplines including rhetoric, history, law, and theology. In this course, we will explore dreams, visions and apparitions in texts ranging from the “lives” of holy women and men (such as the semi-autobiographical The Passion of St. Perpetua and Felicity, the anonymous biography of the bride Christina of Markyate, and Eadmer’s Life of Anselm) to the great poetic works of Chaucer (The Parlement of Foules, The House of Fame, The Canterbury Tales), Gower (Confessio amantis) and Langland (Piers Plowman). Our focus will be on the ways in which writers handle oneiric experiences not just for their content but also their form. We will read fictional compositions framed by dreams, visions and apparitions alongside relevant dream theories/commentaries such as Macrobius’s influential Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, glosses to his commentary and Augustine’s De Genesi ad Litteram. There will also be an optional Latin reading component to enable us to read some of the technical or academic texts on dreams in the original.
Interested students please contact Professor Thomas at email@example.com for permission to enroll
Dreams, Visions and Apparitions in Medieval Literature
ENGL 242 – Winter 2020
Thursdays 3-5:50 PM
Prof. Arvind Thomas