In the seventeenth century, Descartes penned his famous expression "I think therefore I am!" and thus the modern subject was born-or so the simplified story goes. But long before the age of Descartes, the Middle Ages produced an astonishing range of theories and ideas about human selfhood, subjectivity, and interiority. For instance, writing from prison more than one thousand years earlier, Boethius came to realize that what distinguishes a human being from all other creatures is his capacity to "know himself." The meaning of this opaque statement and others like it will command our attention throughout this course, as we explore the diverse, distinctive, and often highly sophisticated notions of subjectivity that developed in the literatures of the Middle Ages. We will take up questions of human agency, free will, identity, self-consciousness, confession, and secrecy as we encounter them in some of the most exciting texts written during the period, including among others) Augustine's Confessions, Prudentius's Psychomachia, the Old English poem The Wanderer, the mystical writings of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Not offered 2022-23.
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