History Through Film (HIST
3900 Fall 2012)
& Revelation in The Middle Ages
email@example.com / 593-0220
423 Bentley Annex
call # 4056
lecture: B227 3:05-5:00 MW
office appointments MW 2:00-2:50
& via Tungle: https://tungle.me/uhalde
In this course we’ll investigate major
themes in medieval history through lectures, reading, and films. No
background in medieval history or film studies is necessary to do well in this
course, only diligence. To make sense of the films and to perform
satisfactorily in this class requires that you have a firm grasp of the
reading and lecture material. With guidance from the questions I provide, you
will argue ways in which the films successfully portray important themes and
problems of medieval history. It is your responsibility to demonstrate your
preparation and comprehension in discussions, announced and unannounced
quizzes, and exams. Most quizzes will take the form of Blackboard
assignments. Exams are closed-book and may consist of identifications, short
answers, and short essays. The final exam will
include simple questions on reading and films and one essay
written in advance and submitted at the beginning of the exam period. The group project
includes a document and presentation, due in the final class meeting. In all
assignments, I evaluate your answers for clarity and argument as well as for
content, so make your best possible effort. All cheating or plagiarism acts
generate a failing grade for the course and referral to the judiciaries: no exceptions. Students who attend class, take notes, and think will have
no difficulty earning a satisfactory grade. Never hesitate to contact me
about the course in my office or over email.
1. Students demonstrate a grasp of major
developments in the social, religious, and political history of medieval
2. Preparedness is evident from clear,
coherent, and substantive contributions to class discussion and written
3. Students can distinguish between
interpretation and distortion, perspective and bias in their own analyses of
4. The ability to analyze medieval literary sources and modern films
within a historical framework.
20% preparation & participation (including Blackboard
25% first exam
30% final exam
I indicate new list-prices. But discount and used
copies of most these books are widely available, including at Little Professor Book Center (65 S. Court St.).
Gerald of Wales, History & Topography of Ireland
(Penguin, 1983). $14 (amz,
Beowulf, tr. Heaney (Norton, 2001).
The Poem of the Cid, tr. Raffel (Penguin, 2009). $15
Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, tr. Kibler
(Penguin, 1991). $16 (amz,
Short Reader of Medieval Saints, ed. Stouck
(Toronto, 2008). $26.95 (amz,
6. Little Flowers of Saint Francis, tr. Okey (Dover, 2003). $3 (amz,
Readings marked (pdf)
are available online by following the link. You will be prompted to provide
your Ohio ID and password. Print and bring these readings to class.
Schedule of Classes
Week 1 (August 27-29)
(W) Frame &
| again | more | medievalism
Read overview; Corrigan, Writing about Film, chs. 1-2 now,
chs. 3 & 5 at your leisure (pdf)
Watch trailers and clips from The Adventures of Robin
Hood (1938), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Robin Hood (2010); with Laurence Olivier as Henry V
(1944) St. Crispin’s
Day speech & Battle of Agincourt, Kenneth Branagh as Henry V
(1989) speech &
battle’s start & more battle
(1981), Robin Hood
(1973), and even
Week 2 (September 5, no class September 3)
(M) no class, holiday
(W) Medieval Identity
Gerald of Wales, History and
Topography of Ireland, pp. 31-125
from Army of Darkness (1992) primitive
screwheads, lots more;
Warrior (dir. John McTiernan, 1999) language; Die Nibelungen, parts 1 and 2 (dir. Fritz Lang, 1924) <alice> ; Valhalla
Rising (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn, 2009)
Week 3 (September 10-12)
(M) Monsters &
Read all of Beowulf; Nokes’
review of Beowulf & Grendel
Warrior (dir. John McTiernan, 1999) full;
clips from Benjamin Bagby’s Beowulf (2007, 99 mins.) <alice>; Beowulf & Grendel (dir.
Sturla Gunnarsson, 2005, 102 mins.) <alice>; Beowulf
(dir. Robert Zemeckis, 2007) <alice>; Beowulf
(dir. Graham Baker, 1999); Beowulf:
Prince of Geats (2008) with review
this and other viking movies; Medieval Wild West: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (dir. John Ford, 1962, 123 mins.) & The Searchers (1956, 119 mins.)
Week 4 (September 17-19)
on Henry II (EHD2 1042-1189, pp.
406-420) <pdf>; historian
on Eleanor, pp. 1-29 <pdf>
Watch The Lion in Winter
(dir. Anthony Harvey, 1968, 134 mins.) <alice>
le prince ą cheval (1993) – French t.v. series, for some
reason compared by some viewers with Lion
Weeks 5 (September 24-26) & 6 (October 1-3)
Chivalry, and Romance
Read Arthurian Romances,
only “Erec and Enide” (pp. 37-122), “Knight of the Cart (Lancelot)” (pp.
207-294), and “Story of the Grail (Perceval)” with continuations (pp.
Watch clips from King Arthur (2004) <alice> trailer; The Last Legion (2007) trailer; Merlin (1998) beginning; Tristan & Isolde (2006, 125
mins.) <alice>; Perceval le Gallois (dir. Eric Rohmer, 1979)
<alice>; Lancelot du
Lac (dir. Robert Bresson, 1974) excerpt
Richard Thorpe, 1952, 106 mins.); Saladin (dir. Youssef Chahine, 1963, 145 mins.)
<utub>; Kingdom of
Heaven (dir. Ridley Scott, 2005, 144
mins.) <alice> ;
The Crusades (dir. DeMille, 1935,
126 mins.) <alice>
Extra credit response (details on Blackboard) Read Song of the Cid & Watch El Cid (dir. Anthony Mann, 1961, 182 mins.) <alice>
Week 7 (October 8-10) Exam on Monday
(W) Ascetic Heroes
Read Medieval Saints, pp. 9-39 on Perpetua &
Watch La tentation de Saint Antoine (dir. Georges MéliŹs,
1898, 1 min.) <utub>;
Simon of the Desert (dir. Luis
BuĖuel, 1965, 45 mins.) <alice>
More…Le diable au convent (dir. MéliŹs, 1899—also his Trip
to the Moon (1902))
Weeks 8 (October 15-17) & 9 (October 22-24)
(W) Divine Justice
(Week 8) Christine de Pizan, “Tale of the Shepherdess” (pdf); Medieval Saints, pp. 86-119 on
relics & pilgrimage; (Week 9) Freedman, “Peasant Bodies” (pdf);
Souyri, World Turned Upside Down,
pp. 1-6 (goog-bk)
Watch (Week 8) The Virgin Spring (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1960, 89
(Week 9) Onibaba (dir. Kaneto Shindo, 1964, 103
Rublev (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966, 205
especially the chapters entitled “The Feast” and “The Raid,” as well as the
finale (“The Bell”); read
Weeks 10 (October 29-31) & 11 (November 5-7)
(M) By the Rule
(M) Heresy & Schism
Read Medieval Saints 40-85 on Benedict &
Radegund; Rule of Saint
Watch (Week 10) extensive clips
from Into Great Silence (dir. Philip Gröning, 2005) <alice>;
compare Terry Jones’ Crusades (1995) <yt>;
(Week 11) The Island (dir. Pavel Lungin,
2006, 112 mins.) <alice>
More... Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (dir. Kim Ki-duk, 2003, 103 mins.)
Weeks 12 (November 14, no class Monday) & 13
(November 19, no class Wednesday)
Read Medieval Saints 120-41, 156-87 on Francis &
Catherine; Little Flowers of St.
Watch (Week 12) Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen (2009, 110
(Week 13) clips from Brother Sun, Sister Moon (dir.
giullare di Dio / The Flowers of St.
Francis (dir. Roberto Rossellini,
1950, 87 mins.) <alice>
Brother Sun, Sister Moon clips: coming out – church
More…Anchoress (dir. Chris Newby, 1993, 108 mins.) <alice>; The Sorceress (1987,
97 mins.) <alice>; The Pillars of the Earth (2010)
Weeks 14 (November 26-28) & 15 (December 3-5)
to this unit’s lecture notes, while you also review notes and readings
from the semester to provide evidence for your final essay!
Watch The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928, 82 mins.)
<alice>; Seventh Seal (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1957, 96 mins.);
clips from The Mill and the
Cross (dir. Lech Majewski, 2011, 96 mins.)
More…The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
(1999, 158 mins.); Day of Wrath
(1943, 97 mins.) <alice>; Nosferatu: A
Symphony of Horror (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1922) <alice>; Black
Death (2010, 102 mins.); Häxan (dir. Benjamin Christensen,
1922, 104 mins.; 1968, 76 mins.) <vid>
For the final exam (details on Blackboard) Watch Nosferatu the Vampyre (dir. Werner Herzog, 1979, 107
mins.) <alice> notice there’s an
English and a German subtitled version, watch whichever you prefer!
Final Essay is due on Blackboard no later than Tues. December 11 at
The University Registrar has schedule the
Final Exam for Wed. December 12 at 12:20PM.
Option #1 Does film offer a viable
means of interpreting and representing significant aspects of medieval
history? Choose a topic (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 vague generalizations.
#2 Pitch an idea for a film
on any significant subject of medieval history, preferably thematic (e.g.
justice, violence, gender, religion, technology, etc.) although persons or
events are permissable. I have provided a detailed outline for how you might
structure your proposal and the information it should contain.
1. Film title
readers know what the film is about: its theme, plot, importance, and what
makes it innovative.
3. Historical background
summary of what is known about the topic and the historical issues at
stake: What sources are available? What challenges do the sources present?
What problems do historians grapple with in order to understand the subject
and put it into context? Use citations for information or quotes from
sources; the bibliography may be included as an appendix (see Section 6).
4. Framework & Outline
you describe the story this film will present. Explain its chronological framework
– why it begins and ends where it does – and the sequence of
scenes – why you include what you include. You must decide how much detail you
will go into but remember that space is limited. Moreover, you must balance
description with explanation.
This is not a script but would provide a scriptwriter with direction
for writing a script. Again, use references and citations wherever possible
to justify and explain your choices.
you provide a general sense of what the film should look and sound like,
and why. Refer to other films we have seen in
class or that are relevant to your topic, citing them as you would readings
and including them in a list of films with the bibliography in Section
6. You may comment on the use
of color or other filming techniques, the use of sound including musical
soundtrack or other elements, special effects, scenery or on-location
filming, and so on. As with
Section 4, however, be sure to balance description with explanation: you
must persuade readers that your choices are grounded in a historical
should include bibliography (both works cited and anything else your group
consulted) and film list, as well as anything else you wish to provide
(e.g. cast of characters, sample dialogue or screenplay, poster, etc.). This does not count toward the 5-page
Requirements for both options The essay must be 5 typed pages
(roughly 1500 words) and include either parenthetical citations or footnotes
for all references to class readings. Bibliography
or other appendices do not count toward 5 pages. No outside research is
expected but you must cite everything (books, articles, websites) from which
you quote, paraphrase, or heavily borrow information and ideas (please review
the policy on plagiarism in the syllabus).
Submit your essay as an attachment
via Blackboard anytime before Tuesday, December 11, 11:59PM.
Remember, regardless of which
option you choose, your essay should accurately 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 written this essay with the same insight and detail three
months ago. Each essay will be evaluated according to the following
– It is in fact a thesis; it is stated clearly in the introductory
paragraph; it is relevant to course material.
– The essay is structured around an argument; each paragraph presents
an aspect of the argument; the argument supports the thesis.
– Readings and films supply the evidence for the argument; evidence
is analyzed, not merely summarized; there is enough evidence from a range
of course material.
– Writing is clear and even elegant; prose is grammatically correct;
punctuation is correct and typos are few; all evidence is properly cited.
Essays 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. Essays that are mostly
‘unsatisfactory’ will receive a D or lower.
Not sure what a thesis is or how
it is different from a topic? A
thesis is an assertion which you will defend in the body of the paper.
It is not a hunch, feeling, or opinion. It is a potentially falsifiable
claim that you make and defend on the strength of the evidence as you
understand it. For example:
“Revelation was important in the Middle
Ages” is not a thesis because no reasonable and informed person would
“Medieval people were more superstitious than
religious” or “Medieval justice was cruel and heartless” are rotten theses.
Both rely more on skepticism or personal judgment than they do on trying to
understand the evidence on its own terms.
“Visions in the Middle Ages were not only
supernatural experiences, but also provided a means of coping with tensions
in ordinary society” is a promising thesis. Much will depend on the evidence
that is chosen and how the argument is made. That’s what the rest of the
introduction will explain and the essay will demonstrate.
Do not stuff your essay with long quotations or summaries. Your
analysis is what matters. Treat lecture material as common knowledge: no
citation necessary. Again, make this essay represent, as fully and accurately
as possible, the amount of attention and work you have given to this course
throughout the term.
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
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
Nickolas Haydock, Movie Medievalism: The Imaginary Middle Ages (McFarland. 2008).
Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer (eds.), Medieval Film. (Manchester University,
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,
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>