This site is the repository for the archives of RMST221 (AY2010-11/Wt1). Everything that was previously at RMST221 at UBC Blogs has been copied over to this present mirror-version. Meanwhile, RMST221 at UBC Blogs will morph into its 2011 incarnation shortly before the beginning of term, and will be used (with a new password for certain parts) solely for that current academic year’s version of the course.

On this archive site: you will find everything that was on the UBC Blogs site, including all of your (i.e. 2010 students’) contributions to discussion and commentary on the blog proper. Most of the posts (and all student comments) are password-protected (except for the present one, the one immediately below it, and most of the items in the The Course menu to your right). Only participants in the course know this password.

While the site is public, the deployment of passwords bars public access to almost everything on this site–the sole exceptions being the aforementioned documents and materials which are publicly accessible elsewhere already, with rights residing with UBC and Juliet O’Brien. Most importantly, in this way student privacy and intellectual property rights are protected.

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Sneak preview for AY 2011-12, winter session, term 2


François Schuiten


Conspiracy, plots and plotting, manoeuvrings and machinations, gossip and rumour, tale-telling and the telling of tales.

Our central theme brings together ideas familiar to the 21st-century reader, viewed through the lens of some of the finest and most intriguing pre-Modern texts, originally written in France, Italy, and Spain in the 12th to 17th centuries; texts that are also an important influence on later European and world literatures, and that span a range of forms: short stories and their collection, romance, the treatise and other didactic works, parody, the picaresque.

Allied topics of crime, mystery, and the playing of games open up further issues of writing, rewriting, reading, and commentary: this course will involve elements of literary detection.

All texts will be worked on in English translation, though students will of course have the option of using versions in the original (or a modernized variant) in their final projects.

Érik Desmazières: La Salle des planètes, from his series of illustrations for Jorge Luis Borges’s story ‘The Library of Babel,’ 1997–2001. A new volume of Desmazières’s catalogue raisonné will be published by the Fitch-Febvrel Gallery later this year. Illustration © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.


  • Marie de France. Lais (e-text): online
  • Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun, trans. Frances Horgan. The Romance of the Rose (Oxford World’s Classics)
    ISBN 978-0199540679
  • Baldassare Castiglione, trans. George Bull. The Book of the Courtier
    ISBN 978-0140441925 [NB this edition lists the author’s first name as “Baldesar”]
  • Niccolò Machiavelli, trans. Peter Bondanella. The Prince (Oxford World’s Classics)
    ISBN 978-0199535699
  • Fernando de Rojas, trans. Lesley Byrd Simpson. The Celestina (University of California Press)
    ISBN 978-0520250116
  • Anon and Francisco de Quevedo, trans. Michael Alpert. Lazarillo de Tormes and The Swindler: Two Spanish Picaresque Novels. trans Alpert (Penguin Classics)
    ISBN 978-0140449006

and one of the following two books
(half the class will work on the first, the other half on the second):

  • Giovanni Boccaccio, trans. G.H. McWilliam. Decameron (Penguin)
    ISBN 978-0140449303
  • Marguerite de Navarre, trans. Paul Chilton. Heptameron (Penguin)
    ISBN 978-0140443554

Course site on UBC Blogs [i.e. here], including supplementary reading list for student presentations and projects.

Books will be available at the UBC Bookstore at the beginning of term (and also elsewhere, online, etc.); all are standard reasonably-priced paperback editions. Do please ensure that you have obtained the right edition, checking especially the name of the translator. Older editions of the same translation usually have the same text and pagination, and buying a second-hand copy can save you money and is therefore a good idea; do check, however, that an older edition is indeed identical to the current one…

François Schuiten



… will be posted on this site. The introductory week will feature an intriguing movie, a murder mystery set in a 14th-century Italian monastery: The Name of the Rose (1986). Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud, with Sean Connery, Christian Slater, and Ron Perlman. Based on the novel by Umberto Eco (1980). For further details, see the pertinent IMDB and Wikipedia entries, as well as the Wikipedia entry on the Eco novel.

Abelard & Heloïse, Letters
Tristan and Yseut
Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances
Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love
Aucassin and Nicolette
Fleur and Blanchefleur
Romance of Reynard

Heldris de Cornuälle, Romance of Silence
Juan Ruiz, The Book of Good Love
La Châtelaine de Vergy
Christine de Pisan, The Book of the City of Ladies
Alain Chartier, La Belle Dame sans merci
Machiavelli, The Portable Machiavelli (trans. Bondanella) or The Essential Writings (trans. Musa)
Cervantes, Exemplary Tales
—, Don Quixote
[This list is not comprehensive, and is subject to change.]

Optional extra reading, for summer pre-course preparation: "The Hour of the Pig" (1993)

For further suggestions on pertinent viewing material, please see Meta-meta-medieval: filmography.

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Final week: presentations & projects


  • You will first be presenting your project to the whole class in the last week of term. This can be in the style of an introduction to work in progress, or a summary of findings or highlights.
  • Length: Five minutes
  • Form: Open–and you may use whatever props and technological aids you wish (PowerPoint, OP, etc.)–but you must stay within the strict time limit.
  • Format: Two workshop-/conference-style “sessions” on
    • Wednesday 1 December
    • Friday 3 December.
  • Each session will consist of approximately five 5-minute presentations followed by discussion, with questions from your fellow students (my rôle is to ask friendly leading questions if need be, but mainly to chair discussion).
  • Your audience will also be voting on presentations (nominating their top three), and this vote will contribute to your project mark. As will O’Brien’s grade for the presentation.


  • The projects themselves can be in various forms, including but not limited to The Commentary, The Critical Essay, parody, pastiche, continuation, prequel, and comparative study of connected later versions (ex. Monty Python and the Holy Grail c/o Malory c/o Chrétien de Troyes)
  • They should be around 2,000-3,000 words long, not more than 20 min for audio/visual
  • Topics: open, but must include:



2. use/abuse of one of the SUPPLEMENTARY READING texts

OR (subject to approval)
2a. another “reading”: this could include non-written cultural artefacts, such as images FROM ONE OF THE ROMANCE-LANGUAGE CULTURES

You may also use/abuse the course set readings (Tristan, The Book of Good Love, Decameron, Fourth Book), in conjunction with one of the supplementary readings: but this should be in comparison, with the set reading playing second fiddle to the supplementary reading as principal.


trebuchetExemplary medieval group projectilism

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Protected: Presentations

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Protected: The Last Quiz: Rabelais

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Protected: Weekly blog (12): Rabelais

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Protected: Weekly blog (11): Rabelais

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Supplementary reading

for student presentations and projects: texts ℅ instructor or the library.

Continue reading

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Debate: to laugh or to cry?

This might be of interest: BBC Radio 3, “Comedy or Tragedy?” (first broadcast 2010-11-09, should be available on “listen again” for a week)

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