Friday, February 01, 2008

Muhlberger's courses, 2008-9

For those who missed my first post, the information is here. HIST 3116, which appears on Web Advisor as Topics in European or World History, is going to be a Fall Term offering and the topic will be Crusade and Jihad. Probable focus: Palestine and the Middle East, 1000-1300.

Those interested in the fourth-year chivalry seminar can consult the chivalry seminar posts from last year; see the tags at the end of the post.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Courses I'm teaching, 2008-9

Are we really up to 2008-9?

Soon enough, I guess.

My schedule for next year is not absolutely guaranteed, but it seems very likely that I will be teaching the following 3 courses:

HIST 3805 (formerly 2805), History of Islamic Civilization: A year-long course that discusses the interaction of Islam and world history. Not primarily a course on religion, and not entirely devoted to the Middle East.

HIST 3116 (a special topics designation), Crusade and Jihad: a semester course focusing on the crusade to Jerusalem and the Muslim response. I'm still figuring out the parameters of this course.

HIST 4505, Topics in Medieval History: a year-long seminar for 4th year students on chivalry. Click on the labels for "chivalry" and "Chivalry seminar 2006-7" below, or the chivalry links to the right, for material I posted the last time around.

Image: The Accolade, Edmund Blair Leighton. Knighthood as it should have been?

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

C.S. Lewis on medieval literature

In preparation for my seminar on "Chivalry" I am rereading some key articles and book chapters to see how suitable they are for classroom use. One of these articles is the classic (book publication: 1936) essay "Courtly Love" by C.S. Lewis, author of Narnia, other fantasies, and a lot of Christian polemic originally intended for a popular British audience. (Material on Lewis' writings is all over the Web).

The "Courtly Love" essay is at least 70 years old this year, but it's still useful, I think, when supplemented by other more recent discussions. It is, for one thing, amazingly free of academic jargon. There are passages that take the breath away. For instance, I quoted this one for years in a course I used to teach:

It seems to us natural that love should be the commonest theme of serious imaginative literature: but a glance at classical antiquity or at the Dark Ages at once shows us that what we took for 'nature' is really a special state of affairs, which will probably have an end, and which certainly had a beginning in eleventh-century Provence. It seems -- or it seemed to us till lately -- a natural thing that love (under certain conditions) shoud be regarded as a noble and ennobling passion: it is only if we imagine ourselves trying to explain this doctrine to Aristotle, Virgil, St. Paul, or the author of Beowulf, that we become how far from natural it is.
Note the complete lack of jargon here. Also (hey, I'm a historian) how his ideas are grounded not in high-flown theoretical assertions, but in historical examples. If you want to argue with Lewis, you know where to begin. And he shows what can be done with ordinary, everyday words.

It seems to me that not too many scholars today want to be as clear and forthright as Lewis was here. But I'm not nostalgic; I think this kind of writing has always been rare.

I am actually pretty far down the ranks of admirers of Lewis's fiction -- there are now millions of adults who fell in love with Narnia as kids, not to mention the kids who are reading about Narnia now -- but I do appreciate the fact that he had a cosmic vision. I grew up a science fiction fan, before it was commonplace, and there is something that Lewis has that a lot of people lack. Look at that quote again and note this:
a special state of affairs, which will probably have an end
Ah, yes, Clive, you got that right.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

For students in HIST 4505 (2006-7): Chivalry seminar

Starting in September, I will be teaching Nipissing University's HIST 4505, which our calendar calls "Topics in Medieval History." Not a very helpful description, is it?

For the benefit of any of my students who stop by here: the subject will be "Chivalry." It's a big subject, especially if you bring in all the various points of view: what poets, chroniclers, preachers, and knights themselves said chivalry was, or should be.

I am in the process of putting together a course outline, a course reader, and a web-page. In the meantime, here's a pre-course reading list for any of you who might be really enthusiastic. It's taken right off the NU library catalogue, and it's just a sample; there is plenty more where that came from. Read one of these, and you have a good head-start; read a second one and you are really off to the races.

Students often associate History with the D section of the Library of Congress classification (or E or F if they study the Western Hemisphere). Note how few of these books are in "D." Lots of fabulous books lurk in B, C, J, H, and U.

CR4529.E85 K33 1999
Chivalry and violence in medieval Europe / Richard W. Kaeuper.

DC33.2 .B59 1998
Strong of body, brave and noble : chivalry and society in medieval France / Constance Brittain Bouchard.

CR4513 .K44 1984
Chivalry / Maurice Keen.

CR4529.F8 P3
French chivalry : chivalric ideas and practices in mediaeval France / by Sidney Painter.

CR4509 .B37 1974
Knight and chivalry / Richard Barber.

CR4553 .H84 2005
Deeds of arms : formal combats in the late fourteenth century / Steven Muhlberger.

DC96.5 .W75 2000
Knights and peasants : the Hundred Years War in the French countryside / Nicholas Wright.

HN11 .D7813 1980
The chivalrous society / Georges Duby ; translated by Cynthia Postan.

DA185 .C64 1996
The knight in medieval England, 1000-1400 / Peter Coss.

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