David King Hall 2054
Section Information for Fall 2017
'Our memories make us who we are' is a common saying in modern American culture. In other words, memories define our individuality and shape our identities. But 'memory' or 'memoria' meant something different in the Middle Ages. It was a craft, a learned skill, a specific method of breaking down information into manageable pieces, and then storing those pieces within mental images, like palaces or angel wings. Medieval memory practices were designed to remove error, but in so doing, they remove individuality as well.
This course will investigate the relationship between memory and identity in medieval literature. We will learn about medieval craft of memory (including how to practice some of its techniques!), and we will examine how medieval authors use this craft in their writing. But we will also read medieval memoirs, lyric poems, letters, and histories, to analyze the connections that medieval writers make between individual and collective memories, and between personal and cultural identity. How do individuals relate to their memories? How does memory create both individual and group identities? And how do individuals and groups use cultural memories to preserve those identities? Through these readings, we will interrogate our assumptions about how we remember and write about our personal and collective pasts.
Assignments include papers, a presentation, and a final project using medieval mnemonic techiquies.
No previous familiarity with medieval literature is required.