Journal 10: Villon and conclusions

Write a journal, not a response this week. Consider the following questions:

  • How is Le Testament similar or different in comparison to previous works we’ve covered this semester in regards to gender, sexuality, identity, body, religious affiliation or deviation, etc?
  • Ezra Pound felt compelled to compose his opera based on the rhythms he felt in the old French of Villon’s Le Testament. Are there any noticeable sections of the long poem that resonate with you when it comes to language, sound and function?
  • Are you surprised by Villon’s continued influence into the 20th and 21st centuries?

Journal 9: Character study

Write a journal, not a response this week. Write a character study of the character you chose in class (see below for a reminder of which character you chose):

Martin de Cambrai: Martin (Kristin), his wife Guillemet (James), the priest (Claire)

Le Savetier Calbain: Calbain (Andrew), his wife (Tess), le galant (Gloria)

Le Chaudronnier: L’homme (Maria), la femme (Annie), le chaudronnier (Jennifer)

Some questions to consider:

  • What stock character does your character represent? How does he or she embody the characteristics typically associated with the stock character?
  • Are there any ways that the depiction of this character surprised you or seemed to challenge the stereotypes of the stock character?
  • Choose a scene that your character is in and analyze it. What does this specific scene tell us about your character and their role in the farce? Is there any social commentary (for instance, about real people who are like your character) that audiences can extract from this scene? Conroy suggests that the dialogue of the farce allowed the actor to determine what physical actions to perform for the character; according to what is being said in this scene, how do you think this character would have been represented on stage?
  • At the end of your journal, list a passage that involves your character that you’d like to discuss in class (if you wrote about a specific passage already in your journal, you can list the same one).

If you think of any easily accessible objects that seem key to your character, please bring those to class for performances.

Conference paper presentations

Presenting Conference Papers in the Humanities

  • This is excellent. It has a lot of really really useful info on how to write a paper you’re going to present out loud.

How to Give a Fabulous Academic Presentation: Five Tips to Follow

  • This includes a possible structure for your paper, as well as other good tips.

When Professors Profess Too Much

  • More interesting than the article itself, which takes a lenient view of papers that exceed their time limits, are the comments.  The main idea: do not go over your time limit. Do not go over your time limit. Do not go over your time limit.
  • For your presentations, I will set a timer for 20 minutes. When the alarm sounds, your time to speak is up. If you haven’t concluded your paper, this will not be a successful presentation. It would be great if you could aim for 15 minutes instead of 20, anyway.

Some other pointers

  • For our presentations, your papers should come in at 7-8 pages (12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced; I usually aim for about 7 pages with 14 point font because it’s easier to read). Even though sources above say you can do 10 pages in 20 minutes, that’s pushing it if you’re reading slowly enough for people to follow you.
  • When you read out loud to practice before your presentation, mark words that give you trouble. I usually find myself stumbling over the same word(s), and when I have them marked, I know to anticipate and get them right.
  • Put things in bold to help you find your place on the page after you look up to make eye contact with your audience. (Look up to make eye contact with your audience, frequently.) One place I use bold is when I have a citation from the primary text or from another scholar.
  • Speaking of citations: they should be in the original language. You can use translations to read aloud, but keep the original in the body of your paper, in case someone in the audience has a question about it.

Journals & Responses 8

Please read both farces and both articles before writing your journals/responses (according to the schedule) this week.

Possible topics:

  • Gender or role reversal
  • Metaphorical obscenities within the farces
  • How would these farces be portrayed on stage? How do you think the farces would be perceived by the audience?
  • Are there any striking differences between the fabliaux and the farces?

At the end of your journal/response, list a passage you’d like to discuss in class.

Journal 7: Close Reading

Write a journal, not a response this week. We will resume the Group 1/Group 2 schedule next week.

Choose a passage from the second half of Trubert (50 lines or fewer; ideally, many fewer, because this is a shortened version of a close reading) and perform a close reading. This is  more than a summary or explanation; it should be an argument. Consult the guide before you start this assignment.  Keep in mind this is still a 2 paragraph journal, so you don’t have the space to express everything you would in a longer paper. Be as succinct as possible while still making an argument.

Journals & Responses 6

Journals this week should focus on the first section of Trubert (through line 1448, p. 437) and/or the assigned section of Kathryn Gravdal’s book. Possible journal topics:
  • Do you agree with Gravdal’s conclusion that parody and transgression in medieval literature essentially reinforce societal norms, or do you think we could read Trubert as radical and revolutionary?
  • How do bodies function in Trubert, as compared to the other fabliaux we have read? Does the compounding of sexuality and violence change their role, or change how we interpret the text?
  • Do you think Trubert must necessarily be classified as a fabliau? Does it transgress the very form of its own genre?
Finally, pick a section (approximately 20-40) lines you’d like to talk about to facilitate our recap and discussion of the text.

Making medieval books + proper handling of manuscripts

Please watch these two videos before our visit to Special Collections on October 16.  The first comes from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and gives many details on the creation of a medieval manuscript.  The second comes from the film The Name of the Rose and provides a glimpse of what a medieval scriptorium might have been like.

Scriptorium scene (dubbed into French; the visual is the most important aspect of this scene)

Please also read these two articles:

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography gives you the chance to 1) gather together your sources and 2) begin thinking about how they are useful to your research. Please follow these guidelines as you work on your annotated bibliography:

  • Citation style: MLA or other style with which you are comfortable, as long as you are consistent.
  • Number of sources: 7-10 good sources
    • Wikipedia, for example, is okay as a source, especially for the other sources it can help point you to, but shouldn’t count towards your 7-10
    • Primary as well as secondary texts count towards the 7-10 and should be included in the annotated bibliography
  • Bullet point 1: Summary of source
    • What is the thesis?
    • How does the author support the thesis?
  • Bullet point 2: Evaluation of source
    • How does this source compare to others in your bibliography?
    • Was this source useful to you?
    • How does it help you shape your argument?
    • Has it changed how you think about your topic?

External sources for more info on annotated bibliographies:

Thesis statement (and introduction)

While you are not required to submit your introduction yet, writing it can help you develop your thesis.

What should an introduction and a thesis statement accomplish?  You might begin by offering an intriguing quote, either from a primary or secondary source; you might pose a thought-provoking question, or use an interesting anecdote. The introduction is the place to offer a brief (and by brief, I mean two sentences maximum) summary of the primary text(s) you’re writing about.  Tell your reader (briefly) about the author, if you know that info.  When was the text composed?  After this introductory information, manipulate your reader’s interest towards your thesis—move into your own interpretation of the text.  This means that you need to offer some new way of understanding the text.  This does not mean that you should summarize the plot.

In a research paper, your primary goal is to offer a clear, concise argument (claim and basis) about the texts (primary and secondary) that you are analyzing, and to back up that argument with evidence, quotations, and examples.  Noting the often subtle distinction between analysis and summary is key to your success.  The goal is not to explain what a text is about or how it is put together (summary)—rather, the goal should be to contribute something new or original to our understanding of the text.  Go deeply into one issue rather than shallowly into multiple issues.


A summary paper might be set up in the following way:

In Le Chevalier de la Charrette, a nameless knight sets out on a daring quest to rescue Queen Guenevere from the clutches of Méléagant.  During his voyage, he encounters adventure after adventure… etc.

An analysis, on the other hand, might be set up like this:

Le Chevalier de la Charrette presents Guenevere as an empowered figure who commands brave knights with the slightest movement of her eyes; even a hint of her displeasure brings Lancelot, portrayed in this romance as the bravest knight who ever quested, to his knees. (claim).  The remainder of your paper would focus on supporting this claim through textual examples, close-reading, quotations, and the work of other scholars.

Whereas the first paper merely traces or summarizes the content of the text, the second offers a commentary on the text’s argument, message, or significance.  One is descriptive.  The other is argumentative. Aim for argumentative. One thing to keep in mind is that an argument is something a reader can disagree with, potentially. So plot summary (like in the first example) is not argumentative, because it’s just factual. An argument gives you room (and requires you) to prove your claim with evidence.

Journals & Responses 5

Suggestions for journal topics:

  • How do we see the play of language moving from the Old French to the modern French (and to whatever extent you understand your reading to rely on translation to English)? How do these uncertainties in language shift the meaning/your interpretation of the story?
  • How does the role of the clergy change here relative to the earlier texts we’ve seen, and what do you think that has to do with the subject of the fabliaux? Is this a reflection of modernity, or what? How does the relationship between the clergy and the non-clergy (as represented in Vitz, or from your own understanding) affect our readings?
  • What’s the value of humor in the fabliaux, and how does that impact our readings of the heavy material discussed here (like sexual assault)? How “ahistorical” should we be “allowed” to be in our responses to these readings? Furthermore, taking into account the Vitz piece, how might seeing these fabliaux performed rather than reading them affect the interpretation of the subject matter?
  • What relationship do we see in these stories between what characters say they’re going to do, and what they actually do. How does this relate to the “narrator” (or, more accurately, performer) of these tales? How do these relationships/contradictions between saying and doing differ (or not) from what we’ve read up until this point? Why do you think that is?
  • What over-arching ideas are we supposed to glean from these works about the relationships between gender, intelligence, and trickery?

Finally, choose an interesting passage of about 10-20 lines from one of today’s fabliaux for a translation activity. You don’t need to do anything with it, just have a passage that you want to talk about in mind.