Skip Navigation

Course Details

Course Details

Course Code: HUMN520 Course ID: 3526 Credit Hours: 3 Level: Graduate

This course addresses the possibility of the existence of a proper way or path through life. Texts are chosen based on their ability to clarify moral values in the middle ages and antiquity, and are loosely grouped around themes of devotion, consolation, and the otherworld. Primary texts will be read in conjunction with historical background information. Readings will include selections of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Anchorene Wisse, the letters of Abelard and Heloise, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Old English stoic literature, Chaucer’s “Book of the Duchess,” and examples of journeys to the otherworld including Aeneus’ journey to Hades in Virgil’s Aeneid, selections of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Beowulf’s decent into Grendel’s mere, faerie ballads, and The Pearl.

Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
09/28/20 - 02/26/21 03/01/21 - 04/25/21 Winter 2021 Session D 8 Week session
11/30/20 - 04/30/21 05/03/21 - 06/27/21 Spring 2021 Session I 8 Week session

Current Syllabi

Students who successfully complete this course will have developed the skills necessary to:

  1. Beginning with Christian antiquity and working forward into medieval texts, learn more about our humanity by looking at our predecessors’ struggles to be strong leaders, to deal with loss, to identify themselves as good people, to balance love and duty, to overcome fear, and to live a holy life.
  2. Investigate and evaluate the balance between communal solidarity and individual freedom, particularly how it shifted with the development of Christianity.
  3. Through short reading assignments, build skills in literary analysis and the succinct writing style required for abstracts and grant proposals.
  4. Engage with academic peers by forum posts with classmates, and by reading and responding to articles published in academic journals.
  5. Create a presentation using the latest technology, and defend your ideas in front of your colleagues.
  6. Synthesize the concepts in this course with independent research to produce a scholarly essay that would be worthy of publication in an academic journal.
  7. Enjoy a lifelong love of learning!
NameGrade %
Forums 50.00 %
Week 1 Forum 6.25 %
Week 2 Forum 6.25 %
Week 3 Forum 6.25 %
Week 4 Forum 6.25 %
Week 5 Forum 6.25 %
Week 6 Forum 6.25 %
Week 7 Forum 6.25 %
Week 8 Forum 6.25 %
Literature Review 15.00 %
Week 4 Research Project: Literature Review 15.00 %
Research Presentation 15.00 %
Week 6 Research Project: Presentation 15.00 %
Critical Essay 20.00 %
Week 8 Research Project: Critical Essay 20.00 %

All readings are available as links in the classroom. Required Texts:


Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Trans. Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg, and Edward M. Cook.

Harper Collins Publishers, 2005.


Abelard, Peter and Heloise. "Letter 1 from Abelard to a Friend" and "Letter 4 from Heloise to Abelard." The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise. Sacred 1901.

"Part 1: Devotions" and "Part 2: The Outer Senses." Ancrene Wisse. Anchoritic Spirituality: Ancrene Wisse and Associated Works. Eds. Anne Savage and Nicholas Watson. New York: Paulist Press, 1991. 53-92.

Introductory Readings: Hasenfratz, Robert. "Introduction." Ancrene Wisse. Detroit: Western Michigan U, 2000

Mulder-Bakker, Anneke B. "Lame Margaret of Madgeburg" Lives of the Anchoresses: The Rise of the Urban Recluse in Medieval Europe. Trans. Myra Heerspink Scholz. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2005. 148-156, 161-173.


Boethius, Anicius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. David Slavitt. Harvard UP, 2010.


"The Wanderer" & "The Seafarer." Old and Middle English c.890-c.1400: An Anthology. Ed. Elaine Treharne. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. 42-53.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Book of the Duchess." eChaucer: Chaucer in the 21st Century. Ed. Gerard NeCastro.


Virgil. "Book 6." Aeneid. Trans. H.R. Fairclough. Theoi E-Texts.

Alighieri, Dante. Cantos I-IV. Inferno. Divine Comedy. Trans. Charles Eliot Norton. Electronic Classics Series. Also available at

"Descent into the Mere." Beowulf. Trans. Seamus Heaney. Bilingual Edition. W.W. Norton, 2001. 94- 113. (additional page available at


"Sir Orfeo." Eds. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury. Teams Middle English Text Series.

"Thomas the Rhymer." Medieval English Literature: Oxford Anthology of English Literature. 2nd ed. Eds.J.B. Trapp, Douglas Gray, and Julia Boffey. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. 349-351.

"The Voyage of Bran Son of Febal To the Land of the Living." Ed. and Trans. Kuno Meyer. Forgotten Books, 2005.


The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.Eds. Malcolm Andrew and Ronald Waldron. 5th ed. Incorporating prose translation on CD-Rom. Exeter: U of Exeter P, 2007.

or use this electronic text

Book Title:All readings will be provided to students through links in the classroom. If you wish to purchase a hard copy of any of the texts, please contact your professor for recommendations.

Previous Syllabi

Not current for future courses.