Denis Renevey (Université de Lausanne)


Course description
How did people in the late Middle Ages conceive of the relationships between themselves and the natural world? How did early English literature react to, and characterise the environment that seems an increasingly pressing concern for our own modern context? This module will explore the many roles that early literature played not just in reflecting the environment, but also in constructing and shaping human interactions with the natural world.
The module examines literary representations of the environment and investigates the kinds of relationships they posit between the human and non-human. We will work with theoretical approaches such as ecocriticism and encounter a wide range of primary source material that imagines early human interactions with the environment.

Teaching approach
The method of instruction will consist in a variety of pedagogical approaches. The teacher will provide lectures for about 45 minutes per session for some of the sessions. It will be followed by small group discussions and workshop activities, which will be concluded by brief informal presentations by the students. During sessions, we will also structure discussion comparing the ways in which our cultural backgrounds have a huge impact on the way we define our relationship to space and environment. That will allow us to have a better perception of medieval culture’s own take on the environment and the way human and non-human life forms are represented in their interaction with one another.

Evaluation method
Students’ grade will be composed of three elements:
1. A mid-term commentary on an extract of text (30%)
2. Class participation (10%)
3. Final essay (60%)

Learning goals
Upon completing this course students should be able to
- read medieval texts focused on space and environment
- to learn to read and discuss theoretical texts linked to the course’s subject
- to be able to apply theoretical knowledge to primary material
- to think more globally about encountering other cultures and other values, and to develop ways of understanding the way in which the representations of space and environment are culturally dependent


- Introduction: Space and Ecocriticism
- Early Ecocriticism - Geoffrey Chaucer, 'The Former Age'
- Local Perspectives/Pastoral - The Second Shepherd's Play
- Global Perspectives - The Book of John Mandeville
- Wilderness - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- Built Environments - SGGK
- Confinement - Ancrene Wisse and Anchoress (film)
- Imprisonment and Dreamscapes – James I of Scotland, The Kingis Quair
- Gardens - Geoffrey Chaucer, 'The Merchant's Tale and 'The Franklin's Tale', from The Canterbury Tales
- Weather worlds – John Heywood, Play of the Weather (optional)




Primary Literature

- Chaucer, Geoffrey, 'The Former Age':
- The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
- The Book of John Mandeville
- The Works of the Gawain Poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, ed. by Ad Putter and Myra Stokes (London, 2014).
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, ed. by J.J. Anderson (London: Everyman, 2005).
- Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales
- Ancrene Wisse
- James I of Scotland, The Kingis Quair
- John Heywood, Play of the Weather
Anon., The Second Shepherds’ Play

Secondary Literature


- Blud, Victoria, Diane Heath and Enint Klafter (eds.), Gender in Medieval Places, Spaces
and Thresholds (London: University of London Press, 2019).
- Classen, Albrecth and Christopher R. Clason (eds.), Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age: The Spatial Turn in Premodern Studies (De Gruyter, 2012).
- Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome and Lowell Ducket (eds), Elemental Ecocriticism: Thinking with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire (Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
- Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
- Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome (ed.), Inhuman Nature (Washington: Oliphaunt Books, 2014).
- Crane, Susan, Animal Encounters: Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).
- Davis, Carmel Bendon, Mysticism and Space: Space and Spatiality in the Works of Richard Rolle, The Cloud of Unknowing Author, and Julian of Norwich (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008).
- Flint, Kate and Howard Morphy (eds.), Culture, Landscape and the Environment: The Linacre Lectures 1997, (Oxford: OUP, 2000).
- Lefebvre, Henri, The Production of Space, tr. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).
- Marland, Pippa, 'Ecocriticism', Literature Compass, 10 (2013), 846-868.
- McAvoy, Liz Herbert, The Enclosed Garden and the Medieval Religious Imaginary (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2021).
- Nardizzi, Vin and Tiffany Jo Werth (eds.), Premodern Ecologies in the Modern Literary Imagination (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).
- Nardizzi, Vin. 'Medieval Ecocriticism', Postmedieval, 4 (2013), 112-123.
- Rudd, Gillian, Greenery: Ecocritical Readings of Late Medieval English Literature (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007).
- Stanbury, Sarah, 'Ecochaucer: Green Ethics and Medieval Nature', The Chaucer Review, 39 (2004), 1-16.
- Tilley, Christopher, A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths, and Monuments (Oxford: Berg, 1994).
- Turner, Marion, A Handbook of Middle English Studies (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2013).
- Westling, Louise Hutchings (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Specific Texts

Chaucer, 'The Former Age'

- Galloway, Andrew, 'Chaucer's Former Age and the Fourteenth Century Anthropology of Craft: The Social Logic of Premodernist Lyric', English Literary History, 63 (1996), 535-53.
- Purdon, Liam O., 'Chaucer's Use of Woad in The Former Age’, Papers on Language and Literature, 25 (1989), 216-19.
- Schmidt, A.V. C., 'Chaucer and the Golden Age', Essays in Criticism, 26 (1976), 99-115.
- Steel, Karl, 'A Fourteenth-Century Ecology: Chaucer's 'The Former Age', In the Middle: Peace Love and the Middle Ages

The Second Shepherd's Play

- Kiser, Lisa J., ‘"Mak's Heirs": Sheep and Humans in the Pastoral Ecology of the Towneley First and Second Shepherds' Plays’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 108 (2009), 336-59.
- Sturges, Robert S., 'Medievalism and Periodization in Frozen River and The Second Shepherds' Play: Environment, Class, Miracle', in: Medieval Afterlives in Popular Culture, ed. by Gail Ashton and Daniel T. Kline, The New Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 85-98.

Ancrene Wisse and Anchoress

- Batt, Catherine, Denis Renevey and Christiania Whitehead, 'Domesticity and Medieval Devotional Literature', Leeds Studies in English, 36 (2005), 195-250.
- Bliss, Jane, 'A Fine and Private Place', in: The Erotic in the Literature of Medieval Britain, ed. by Amanda Hopkins and Cory James Rushton (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2007), pp. 155-163.
- Cannon, Christopher 'Enclosure', in: The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women's Writing, ed. by Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace, Cambridge Companions to Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 109-123.
- Hasenfratz, Robert J., 'The Anchorhold as Symbolic Space in Ancrene Wisse', Philological Quarterly, 84 (2005), 1-26.
- McAvoy, Liz Herbert, Medieval Anchoritisms: Gender, Space and the Solitary Life (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2011).
- Millett, Bella, 'Ancrene Wisse and the Life of Perfection', Leeds Studies in English, 33 (2002), 53-76.
- Renevey, Denis, 'Middle English Writings for Women: Ancrene Wisse', in: Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature, ed. by David Johnson and Elaine Treharne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 198-212.
- Roman, Christopher, 'Anchoritism and the Everyday: the Sacred-domestic Discourse in the Ancrene Wisse', Florilegium, 23 (2007), 99-122
- Sutherland, Annie, 'Þe Wohunge of ure Lauerde and the House without Walls', in: Medieval and Early Modern Religious Cultures: Essays Honouring Vincent Gillespie on his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. by Laura Ashe and Ralph Hanna (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2019), pp. 3-19.

The Book of John Mandeville

- Akbari, Suzanne Conklin, 'The Diversity of Mankind in The Book of John Mandeville', in Eastward Bound: Travels and Travellers, 1050-1500, ed. Rosamund Allen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), pp. 156-176.
- Olk, Claudia, 'The Poetics of Jerusalem in Mandeville's Travels', in Jerusalem as Narrative Space: Erzählraum Jerusalem, ed. by Annette Hoffmann and Gerhard Wolf, Visualising the Middle Ages, 6 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 211-30.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Green Knight

- Brewer, Derek, 'The Colour Green, in A Companion to the “Gawain-Poet, ed. Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997), pp. 181-195.
- Classen, Albrecht. 'Winter as a Phenomenon in Medieval Literature: A Transgression of the Traditional Chronotope?', Mediaevistik, 24 (2011), 125-150.
- Ralph, Iris, 'An Animal Studies and Ecocritical Reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', Neohelicon, 44 (2017), 431-444.
- Rudd, Gillian, '"The Wilderness of Wirral" in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', Arthuriana, 23, (2013), 52-65.

James I of Scotland, The Kingis Quair

- Boffey, Julia, 'Chaucerian Prisoners: the Context of the Kingis Quair', Chaucer and Fifteenth-Century Poetry, ed. Julia Boffey and Janet Cowen (London: King's College London, 1991), pp. 84-102.
- Carretta, Vincent, 'The Kingis Quair and The Consolation of Philosophy', Studies in Scottish Literature, 16 (1981), 14-28.
- Epstein, Robert, 'Prisoners of Reflection: The Fifteenth-Century Poetry of Exile and Imprisonment', Exemplaria, 15 (2003), 159-98.
- Reinbold, Lotte, 'Kingdoms of Infinite Space: Three Responses to the Kingis Quair', in Authenticity, Medievalism, Music, ed. Karl Fugelso (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2018), pp. 103-21.
- Sokolov, Danila, 'Ane Detectioun of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, and the Language of Royal Imprisonment in Medieval and Early Modern England and Scotland', Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 44 (2014), 321-44.

Geoffrey Chaucer, 'The Merchant's Tale and 'The Franklin's Tale'., from The Canterbury Tales

- Blamires, Alcuin, 'May in January's Tree: Genealogical Configuration in the Merchant's Tale, Chaucer Review, 45 (2010), 106-17.
- Bleeth, Kenneth A., 'The Rocks and the Garden: the Limits of Illusion in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale', English Studies, 74 (1993), 113-23.
- Collette, Carolyn P., 'Seeing and Believing in the Franklin's Tale', Chaucer Review, 26 (1992), 395-410.
- Fumo, Jamie C., 'An Interpretive Crux in Januarie's Garden: Chaucer's Merchant's Tale and the Crucificion', Mediaevalia, 23 (2002), 1-37.
- Godlove, Shannon N., '"Engelond" and "Armorik Briteyne": Reading Brittany in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale', Chaucer Review, 51 (2016), 269-94.
- Houlik-Ritchey, Emily, 'Dwelling with Humans and Nonhumans: Neighboring Ethics in The Franklin's Tale', Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 41 (2019), 107-39.
- Kolve, V. A., 'Rocky Shores and Pleasure Gardens: Poetry vs. Magic in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale', Poetics: Theory and Practice in Medieval English Literature: The J.A.W. Bennett Memorial Lectures, ed. Piero Boitani and Anna Torti (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1991), pp. 165-95.
- Lucas, Peter J., 'The Setting in Brittany of Chaucer's Franklin's Tale', Poetica, 33 (1991), 19-29.
- Scott, Anne M., 'Spatial Configurations, Movement, and Identity in Chaucer's Romances', in Travel, Time and Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Time: Explorations of World Perceptions and Processes of Identity Formation, ed. Albrecht Classen (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018), pp. 379-423.
- Sidhu, Nicole, '"Famulier foo". Wives, Male Subordinates, and Political Theory in the Merchant's Tale, Chaucer Review, 54 (2019), 292-314.
- Stanbury, Sarah, 'Women's Letters and Private Space in Chaucer', Exemplaria, 6 (1994), 271-85.

Heywood, The Play of the Weather

- Ailles, Jennifer L., ‘Ecocritical Heywood and The Play of the Weather’, Early Theatre, 16 (2013), pp. 185-96.



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