Rutgers university department of history

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History 506.402.04: Seminar in Medieval Biography
Professor Karl F. Morrison

Van Dyck 216


Telephone: 732-932-7457

Office Hours: Friday, 11:30AM-12:30PM, and by appointment

The class will meet Tuesdays, Hours 4-5 (1:10PM-4:10PM),

in Murray Hall 207.

This course will focus on the tremendous flowering of western culture called “The Twelfth-Century Renaissance.” True to the profile of western “renaissances,” this one conspicuously re-worked the idea of personal identity. It left important literary artifacts of its explorations, struggles, and discoveries in a revival of biography, which included the re-invention of autobiography. Some of these verbal portraits and self-portraits, mirrors of ideals at the creative center of the age, will be the subjects of our study.

They include biographies of a king, queens, a nun, and great figures in the Church. We shall also study two autobiographies, the one of a learned and slightly eccentric abbot and the other of a Jewish convert to Christianity-–apostate, apostle, or fabrication by a self-promoting Christian monastery?
The task for the first half of the semester will be to become familiar with antecedents of varieties and norms of medieval biography as exemplified in these texts. During the second half of the semester, students will prepare term papers analyzing individual texts. Throughout the course, intensive reading, participation in class discussions, and timely completion of assignments will be essential. Except as noted below, late delivery of assignments will not be accepted.

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