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Fall 2016

ENGL 4230: The Medieval Book as Object

Course Description

This was the first, exploratory venture into Hargrett Library MS 836, the Hargrett Hours, a completely unstudied, fifteenth-century French Book of Hours. Because we were starting from scratch, we approached the problem of the Hargrett Hours from both theoretical and practical angles.

The theoretical unit, focusing on the use of these prayerbooks by everyday people, prepared the students for the final, practicum section. Because Books of Hours were written in Latin — in a time when most people knew little to no Latin — they pose specific interpretive problems. How did people use Books of Hours? How did non-Latinate people read these Latin texts? What does “literacy” look like in the Middle Ages? How did these standardized prayers work alongside more inventive texts? And what can a Book of Hours do that a poem or a story can’t?

The final section of the class (later known as Hargrett Hours 1.0) focused on praxis. Specifically, we worked closely with the Hargrett Hours, seeking to the many questions this artifact poses. Who owned it? Where was it made? What texts does it contain? How might it have been used? What happened to the book — in the post-medieval era, and once it came to America?

To my professorial surprise and delight, the students answered many of these questions in the final six weeks of the course, laying a firm groundwork for students in future Hargrett Hours courses to build upon. You can read about those answers, and the new research questions they generated.

Student Co-Investigators

Veronica Block; Shelley Brooks; Miranda Clay; Rachel Costa; Meg Dominey; Sara Funk; Sam Harper; Madison Hogan; Sarah Kate Johnson; Sarah Landry; Katie Lech; Kaley Lefevre; Jared Long; Jasmine Paxton; Lainie Pomerleau; Jessica Roberts; Ty Stewart; Ashton Taylor; Nicholas Vowell; David Zeagler.