On the Road with the Wife of Bath and Margery Kempe

ENGL 4784 Senior Seminar

This course is designated WI (Writing Intensive)

Instructor: Daniel Mosser

Phone: (540) 231-7797


Office: Williams 216

FAX: (540) 231-5692

Index#: 6301

Classroom: Williams 221 (note change)

Office Hours: 12:45-1:45 TTH & by appointment

Class Time: 2-3:15 TTH

This Senior Seminar focuses on two Middle English "autobiographies" and the contexts that produced them. The lives of these two remarkable women share several features in common: both were businesswomen (Margery brewed beer; Alison made/sold textiles, but husbands were her true "trade"); both traveled extensively on pilgrimages; both found ways to assert a nontraditional, sovereign position in their marriages; and both provoked strong reactions from men. One, however, was a fictional construct, the other an historical woman telling her story through a male scribe (and therefore, perhaps, also "constructed"). One embraced the pleasures of the flesh, while the other turned to a life of chastity (after bearing fourteen children).

We will read The Book of Margery Kempe (in a modern English translation), the Wife of Bath's description in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, and the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale (in glossed and annotated Middle English). The Beidler edition of these Wife of Bath materials includes a series of critical essays with specific theoretical orientations. While these are focused on the Wife of Bath, we will use them also as tools for our study and discussion of Margery Kempe.










Writing Intensive courses require as a minimum the following (from the University Core Curriculum Faculty & Advisors' Handbook):

  1. It must have a minimum of 15 pages of writing assigned during the semester.
  2. The 15 pages of writing must be distributed over the course of the semester.
  3. There must be opportunities for giving feedback to students and letting them revise at least some of their writing before it is given a final grade.
  4. Much of the writing should mimic the writing of the discipline.
  5. Informal writing to facilitate learning is encouraged.