New Course: FIST232/MDST232: Obscure Enigma of Desire — MW 10:50 a.m.-12:10 p.m.

FIST232/MDST232   Obscure Enigma of Desire, MW 10:50AM-12:10PM; FISK210, Professor Jeff Rider

This course is an introduction to the study of the ways we create meanings when we read texts. It will focus on several deliberately obscure literary texts from twelfth-century France and will examine them in the light of the classical and medieval concepts of enigma, the marvelous (wonderful), fabula, and allegory as well as some modern theoretical works about how we understand narratives. We will seek to understand why deliberate obscurity is an important part of literature and how medieval authors created narratives that seem particularly meaningful precisely because they are obscure. We will consider why we feel these texts have meaning and the ways in which we make them meaningful to us.

This course will be co-taught in parallel with a course (in English) on the same subject offered at the Charles University in Prague by Professor Lucie Dolezalova. About half of the classes will be conducted together with the class in Prague through teleconferencing and Professor Dolezalova will teach one week of the course at Wesleyan and meet with students while she is here.


Marie de France, Lais; Chrétien de Troyes, The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot) and The Story of the Grail; The Quest for the Holy Grail; Aristotle, Poetics (excerpts); Cicero, On the Orator and On Invention (excerpts); Rhetorica ad Herennium (excerpts); Quintillian, The Oratorical Education (excerpts); Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights(excerpts); Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, On the Trinity, Questions Concerning the Heptateuch, and Expositions of the Psalms (excerpts); Isidore of Seville, Etymologies (excerpts); Aldhelm of Malmesbury, Enigmas (excerpts); Abelard, Christian Theology (excerpts); William of Conches, Commentaries on Boethius’s “Consolation of Philosophy” (excerpts); Hugh of Saint-Victor, On the Three Days, On Meditation, and Didascalicon (excerpts); Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles  and Summa Theologica (excerpts); Eleanor Cook, Enigmas and Riddles in Literature (excerpts); Rita Copeland and Stephen Melville, “Allegory and Allegoresis, Rhetoric and Hermeneutics”; Joseph Dane, “Integumentum as Interpretation”; Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (excerpts); Peter Dronke, Fabula: Explorations into the Uses of Myth in Medieval Platonism (excerpts); Louis Mink, “History and Fiction as Modes of Comprehension”; Karl F. Morrison, “Hermeneutics and Enigma: Bernard of Clairvaux’s De consideratione”; Paul Ricoeur, “Metaphor and Hermeneutics,” “The Hermeneutical Function of Distanciation,” “What is a Text?” and “Appropriation”; Winthrop Wetherbee, Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century (excerpts); Jan Ziolkowski, “Theories of Obscurity in the Latin Tradition”