Course Instructor Days Times Room
ENGL4892 CAMP, CYNTHIA TR 3 :30 PM 0250


Course Title: Medieval Manuscripts and Where To Find Them

This will not be your typical literature class. We will spend limited time reading and analyzing literary texts. Rather, this course will be both seminar and practicum on the physical makeup, use, and decoding of medieval manuscripts. Medieval books predate the printing press: all are handmade (often lovingly and intricately), unique, and highly valuable items. Not only are they gorgeous objects in their own right, but they presume a different relationship between text and reader than do contemporary printed books. We'll get you the tools to understand and appreciate these compelling physical artifacts, focusing on one specific genre of manuscript: the beautifully decorated prayerbooks known as Books of Hours. 

The first third of the course will be a practical introduction to medieval manuscript study and to Books of Hours in particular. You’ll learn how manuscripts were made, how to handle them, how to read their texts, and how to talk about their decoration. We'll spend time in the Special Collections Library examining real-live medieval books, and you'll have the chance to work with single leaves on your own.

The second third of the course will get you both theoretical and pragmatic grounding that will prepare you 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 will focus on praxis via the close examination of one manuscript: the Hargrett Hours. We will build on the work that the Fall 2016 cohort started on the Hargrett Hours Project to keep answering  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 see where we'll be starting, take a look at the interim reports that the Fall 2016 group posted on the course blog.)

Expect to participate daily and energetically, to do much group work (trust me, it is more friendly that way), to write regularly, to be frustrated sometimes by the course material, to be amazed often by medieval scribes and artists -- and to study intimately books much older than this august institution. We'll be making our findings public in various ways: on the course blog, in presentations to librarians and interested parties, and (if all goes according to plan) in the first iterations of the Hargrett Hours website edition.

Although this is an upper-division ENGL course, I will happily waive the prereqs for any upper-division student in another department. If you are in History, Classics, Art History, or Romance Languages, this class will allow you to apply your discipline-specific skills in a truly interdisciplinary environment. If you just like medieval stuff, come geek out with us over beautiful books. Please email me (ctcamp at and we'll set you up with the override.

For updated information, including a book list, please see