HIST 1222 Medieval History in Film & Literature (Fall 2013)
Class meetings in Bentley 140, Mon. & Wed. 3:05-5:00, call # 4056
This survey of medieval European society and culture introduces major historical themes through lectures, reading, and films. No background in medieval history or film studies is necessary to do well, only diligence. The Middle Ages are often imagined as primitive and barbaric, pure and romantic, or an infantile version of the modern world. This course invites students to test those generalizations against more critical views. The focus is on violence and religious life, two topics with considerable overlap. Along with reading primary sources, including warrior epics and saints’ lives, we analyze a variety of films ranging from famous to obscure, artistic to graphic. Whatever the medium, our concern is with improving critical and interpretative skills, and with confronting both obstacles and avenues to understanding cultures other than our own. With guidance from reading and lecture material, you’ll look for ways in which films can successfully engage with important themes in medieval history.
It is your responsibility not only to attend but to be an alert participant in class, where you also can expect short quizzes and writing assignments frequently. You’ll write at least five film reviews, each roughly 500 words long, submitted on Blackboard at the end of assigned weeks. Along with a mid-term exam, there are two options for the final project: one is a thesis on a topic of your choice that draws on a range of course materials and additional materials where necessary; the other is a group proposal for a film about a significant topic in medieval history, which includes a written report as well as a presentation in one of our final meetings. Essays and reports are due at the scheduled exam meeting.
I evaluate all written work for clarity and argument as well as for content, so make your best possible effort. Any students needing special accomodations should notify me so that we may work together with Student Accessibility Services. Students who attend class, do the reading, and take notes should have little or no difficulty earning a satisfactory grade.
All cheating or plagiarism acts generate a failing grade for the course and referral to community standards, no exceptions. In-class work cannot be made up except in the case of excused absences—e.g. university trips (must be arranged in advance), documented illness, etc. Please refrain from behavior that distracts me or other students—texting, telephoning, web browsing, talking, sleeping; such is considered disruptive and you may be asked to stop or even to leave class. See me if you have questions about these or other policies.
1. Students demonstrate a grasp of major developments in the social, religious, and political history of medieval Europe.
2. Preparedness is evident from clear, coherent, and substantive contributions to class discussion and written assignments.
3. Students can distinguish between interpretation and distortion, perspective and bias in their own analyses of films.
4. The ability to analyze medieval literary sources and modern films within a historical framework.
15% Participation including regular class attendance and in-class quizzes and assignments
30% Film reviews (five highest grades, no more than one outside option)
25% Mid-term exam
30% Final project
It is important (and mandatory) that you obtain the specific editions and translations indicated below. New, discount, and used copies of all these books are widely available online and at Little Professor Book Center (65 S. Court St.), as well as the other bookstores in town. There also are library copies available at Alden and through OhioLink, but remember to request them in advance so that you have time to read them when assigned.
Additional readings are available electronically through hyperlinks in the online syllabus. Some are open access, others are secured pdf documents: you will be prompted to provide your Ohio ID and password. Print and bring these readings to class or take good notes; in discussions and written work, I expect you to be able to refer specifically and accurately to what you’ve read.
Schedule of Classes
The Registrar has scheduled our final exam meeting for Wed. December 11 at 12:20PM.
Film reviews All reviews, including outside film options, are due by 11:59PM Friday the week they’re assigned. Submit them on Blackboard, typing directly into the assignment window or pasting text from a word processor (you may also want to attach the original file). Each review should be roughly 500 words long, give or take a hundred words, and is worth a maximum of 10 points, based on content (50%), analysis (40%), and clarity (10%). Content refers to showing you have good control over the relevant films and readings. Analysis refers to creativity in terms of interpretation, criticism, or relating the film to other course material. Clarity refers to whether the entry makes sense, has a clear point, and is reasonably grammatical. Late entries lose a point for every 24-hour period they are late.You may choose to write on one (and only one) optional film, either in place of one of the regular reviews, or to try replacing a low grade received on a regular review. Your final film review grade is based on your five highest grades.
Final project The written portion of both options must be 1500-2000 words (roughly 5-7 typed pages) and include either parenthetical citations or footnotes for all references to class readings. Bibliography or other appendices do not count toward the word limit. No outside research is expected but you must cite everything (books, articles, websites) from which you quote, paraphrase, or heavily borrow information and ideas (review my policy on plagiarism). Do not stuff your writing with long quotations or summaries. Your analysis is what matters. Whichever option you choose, your project should reflect what you have learned and the effort you have put into this class over the entire semester. In other words, it should be apparent that you could not have completed this project with the same insight and detail three months ago.
Option #1—Thesis (see here) Does film offer a viable means of interpreting and representing significant aspects of medieval history? Choose a topic (e.g. violence, justice, gender, religion, social class) and write an essay that answers the question with specific reference to your chosen topic. Your essay must accomplish two things. First, it must explain the importance of your topic for understanding medieval society. This will probably determine your thesis. Second, it must look critically at the ways contemporary sources and modern film manage to convey the aspects of your topic that you have explained to be important. Your focus can be as specific as you like. Just be certain that your analysis is grounded in texts and films and doesn’t stray into generalizations.
Option #2—Pitch (see here) Working with at least two and no more than three other students, pitch an idea for a film on any significant subject of medieval history, preferably thematic (e.g. justice, violence, gender, religion, social class) although persons or events are permissable. I’ve provided an outline for structuring the written proposal and the information it should contain. You also will present your proposal in one of our two final meetings during week 15 and finals week. The presentation may be simply oral or it may involve multimedia, such as a mock trailer. Finally, the group must collaborate to write a one-page self-evaluation of itself and individual members (not part of the word limit).
Each project will be evaluated according to the criteria described below, weighted as for film reviews. Projects that score ‘above satisfactory’ in all or most categories may receive an A. Those that score mostly ‘satisfactory’ with nothing below satisfactory may receive a B. Those with a mix of scores may receive a C. Projects that are mostly ‘unsatisfactory’ will receive a D or lower.
Further Reading (* = available in Alden Library;† = not in Alden but OhioLink)
†Kevin J. Harty, The Reel Middle Ages: American, Western and East European, Middle Eastern, and Asian Films about Medieval Europe (McFarland, 1999).
†Bert Olton, Arthurian Legends on Film and Television (McFarland, 2000).
*Robin Blaetz, Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture (University of Virginia, 2001). <alice>
†Kevin J. Harty (ed.), Cinema Arthuriana: Twenty Essays (McFarland. 2002) <g-bk>
*John Aberth, A Knight at the Movies: Medieval History on Film (Routledge, 2003).
*Tom Shippey with Martin Arnold (eds.), Film and Fiction: Reviewing the Middle Ages (Brewer, 2003).
†Amy de la BretŹque, L’imaginaire médiéval dans le cinéma occidental (Champion, 2004).
*Martha W. Driver and Sid Ray (eds.), The Medieval Hero on Screen: Representations from Beowulf to Buffy (McFarland, 2004).
†Christian Kiening and Heinrich Adolf (eds.), Mittelalter im Film (De Gruyter, 2006). [essays on many of our class films, all in German]
*Susan Lynn Aronstein, Hollywood Knights: Arthurian Cinema and the Politics of Nostalgia (Palgrave, 2005).
*Robert Rosenstone, History on Film/Film on History, (Longman / Pearson, 2006).
*Richard Francaviglia and Jerry Rodnitzky (eds.), Lights, Camera, History: Portraying the Past in Film (Texas A&M University, 2007).
†Richard Burt, Medieval and Early Modern Film and Media (Palgrave, 2008). [includes an essay on El Cid] <g-bk>
*Nickolas Haydock, Movie Medievalism: The Imaginary Middle Ages (McFarland. 2008).
†Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer (eds.), Medieval Film (Manchester University, 2009).
†Nickolas Haydock and E. L. Risden, Hollywood in the Holy Land: Essays on Film Depictions of the Crusades and Christian-Muslim Clashes (McFarland, 2009). [includes two essays on El Cid]
*Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Schichtman, Cinematic Illuminations: The Middle Ages on Film (Johns Hopkins, 2009).
†Kathleen Coyne Kelly and Tison Pugh, Queer Movie Medievalisms (Ashgate, 2009).
†Andrew B. R. Elliott, Remaking the Middle Ages: The Methods of Cinema and History in Portraying the Medieval World (McFarland, 2011).
*Bettina Bildhauer, Filming the Middle Ages (Reaktion Books, 2011).
†Andrew B. R. Elliot, Remaking the Middle Ages: The Methods of Cinema and History in Portraying the Medieval World (McFarland, 2011). <g-bk>