HUM-H390 — Saints, Sinners and Swords: Medieval European Literature — winter 2017–2018

This table shows what you should do for each classday; all work should be completed before the start of class on the date for which it’s listed. To put it another way, tests are listed on the day they will be given and assignments on the day they are due.

Week Five
Monday, 8 January Read and think about For today read the following selections from Miracles of Our Lady (see the Texts section of this website for the link to the text.) Also think about the questions which follow each selection. And here are some questions to consider in relation to all of the stories that we will read: What image of clergy, of the Virgin Mary, and of demons emerges from this collection of stories? What is your reaction to the overt antisemitism present in several of these stories?
• Introduction (that is, stanzas 1 – 46, not the Translators’ Introduction, which of course you are also free to read, if you wish.)
What is this meadow like? Why might readers like a text, such as this, that’s structured as an allegory? Why might they not like it? In what ways does an allegory differ from other texts that we’ve read so far?
• Miracle 2 The Fornicating Sexton
What concerns do the monks have when they find the Sexton drowned in the river? What do you think of the arguments advanced by both sides in the dispute over the Sexton’s soul?
• Miracle 5 The Charitable Pauper
What different means of spiritual redemption do we see in these stories, and how does this fit in to that?
• Miracle 6 The Devout Thief
Why is the thief spared?
• Miracle 7 Saint Peter and the Proud Monk
This miracle has a similar outcome to miracle 2. How does it differ otherwise?
• Miracle 8 The Pilgrim Deceived by the Devil
Since suicide is a sin, why do you think the pilgrim believes the false Saint James? There are some aspects of this story that might be very embarrassing if they happened to an individual today; what is the Pilgrim’s reaction to his situation after the miracle has occurred?
Tuesday, 9 January Read and think about For today read the following selections from Miracles of Our Lady. Also think about the questions which follow each selection.
• Miracle 9 The Simple Cleric
Does any aspect of the characterization of the Virgin Mary here surprise you?
• Miracle 11 The Greedy Farmer
Here we have yet another debate over the soul of someone whose life was far from saintly. Does this debate differ at all from previous ones we’ve read, and if so how?
• Miracle 14 The Image Miraculously Spared by the Flames — Why is the church hit by lightning, according to the text, and is this explanation coherent with other events in the story?
• Miracle 15 The Wedding and the Virgin
What “reading” or interpretation does the narrator give to the actions of the groom after the marriage? Can you think of any others?
• Miracle 16 The Little Jewish Boy
In what ways does the narrator give a negative characterization to the boy’s father and a positive characterization to the boy? In what ways are the earthly and spiritual realms expressed in this story?
• Miracle 18 The Jews of Toledo
How is the scandalous action disclosed to the people, and how do they decide what to do about it? Meals are mentioned twice here. Why do you think that is?
Thursday, 11 January Read and think about For today read the following selections from Miracles of Our Lady. Also think about the questions which follow each selection.
• Miracle 20 The Drunk Monk
What roles or duties does the Virgin Mary assume or take on in this story? How might a cynical person, who does not believe in miracles at all, interpret this story or explain the account of the monk’s activities and perceptions?
• Miracle 21 The Pregnant Abbess
What conflicts are there in the earthly realm and in the spiritual realm in this story? Do any aspects of this story remind you of the Breton Lais of Marie de France?
• Miracle 22 The Shipwrecked Pilgrim Saved by the Virgin
What opposites can you find in this story? Why do you think Eve is mentioned at the end?
• Miracle 23 The Merchant of Byzantium
What is unusual about the loan arrangements? The lender states that he thinks he is being mocked. What do you think about this? What is the role of faith in this story?
• Miracle 24 (25) The Robbed Church (numbered 25 in some other editions of this book)
Do you agree with the punishments that are given to each of the thieves?
• Miracle 25 (24) The Miracle of Theophilus (numbered 24 in some other editions of this book)
How does the encounter with Satan compare with others you are aware of in literature, film or popular culture? In other miracles, Holy Mary is very quick to come to the aid of those who call upon her. Here she is much more reluctant. Why do you think that is?
Friday, 12 January Test one This test will potentially cover all topics from readings and class discussions up to this point.