In this course, we will go way back--before Stonewall and even Simone de Beauvoir--to depictions of gender diversity in multiple medieval literary genres including romances, songbooks, lais, and chantefable. We will dive deep into medieval French texts with an ability to hold ambiguous and complex representations of gender and sexuality. We will discuss canonical French literary works in translation and also in medieval manuscript, alongside contemporary works on gender, queer, and trans theory, in order to illuminate what medieval literature can teach us about gender identities and desire processes that trouble or even escape the gender binary, as it is commonly understood today. As will become clear from our explorations of medieval French texts and manuscripts, many identity categories that we take to be stable, eternal, or "natural," are contingent and simply "naturalized." Medieval genders are not ours, and our genders will not be those of future generations.
This is a writing-intensive course, and you will produce upwards of 20 pages of academic writing by the semester's end. In this class, we will consider writing a collaborative and ongoing process. In the first few weeks, you will be exposed to ideas about gender and sexuality that surprise you. Your first written assignment will be to describe something "weird" that intrigues you and that you would like to investigate more. Sparks of confusion and intrigue are often seeds that grow into ideas and ultimately arguments! As you investigate this topic, you will be encouraged to begin writing about it, and sharing your writing with your peers. In addition to reviewing drafts of your peers essays, you will produce abstracts, outlines, and short conference papers to practice different means of focusing your thought in writing and communicating your thoughts to an audience. Our course will culminate in a collaborative miniconference, where we will work collaboratively to trouble and undo commonsense notions of gender.
Reading knowledge of French is quite helpful but not essential to this course.