Visions of the End in Early English Literature
This course will examine how writers and artists in medieval Britain and Europe envisioned the end of human history and the transition from death to eternity. Most of the material we will cover dates from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England, but we will also consider some earlier sources from Late Antiquity and early-medieval England, including biblical and other early apocalyptic texts. Besides considering the broad question of how approaches to eschatology changed over time, we will focus on recurrent motifs and issues, such as the Fifteen Signs of Doomsday, legends of the Antichrist, reformist movements and ideologies, representations of Christ as Judge and the role of angels, saints and demons at the Last Judgment, depictions of heavenly joys and the pains of Hell, the development of the idea of Purgatory, medieval views of God's wrath and vengeance as the cause of earthly calamities, the year 1000 (and 2000), as well as modern takes on the theme of the Apocalypse. Since this course will run at the same time as the "Visions of the End, 1000-1600" art exhibit at the McClung Museum and the Annual Marco Symposium sponsored by UT's institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, students will go on at least one field trip and will have a chance to hear outside speakers. No prior coursework on (or familiarity with) medieval cultures or languages is assumed. Requirements include a number of Response Papers, a Class Presentation, and a Term Paper. Texts include Old English homilies in translation, such as Wulfstan's famous "Sermon of the Wolf to the English People"; the dream vision Pearl by the Gawain-poet; the morality play Castle of Perseverance; the "Antichrist" and "Last Judgment" plays from the Chester Cycle; lyrics and liturgical texts on death; the allegorical Pilgrimage of the Soul; selections from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; as well as selections from Anselm, Bonaventure and Joachim of Fiore.