medieval coupleSexual Consent: Medieval/Modern

Spring 2022

Course: FREN 5250
Instructor: Charlie Samuelson
Meets: Th 4:00pm - 6:30pm

In the Middle Ages, the concept of consent was undergoing radical transformations, and literary texts were reflecting on it in sophisticated ways. Challenging the popular narrative that the history of sexual consent is one of linear progress and/or that sexual consent is a modern invention, this course will attend the medievalness of our modern conceptions of it. What, we will ask, does going back to the period that effectively put the mutual consent of spouses on the map mean for us? In particular, what does it mean about the relationship between consent and patriarchy or consent and sexual justice? In literature, can we, moreover, trace a genealogy of consent? In this course, we will read a wide variety of medieval French texts—romances, fabliaux, saints’ lives, epics, an ethical treatise—alongside texts from literary scholars (in particular feminist medievalists) and historians. Readings will also be paired with exciting work on consent by modern moral philosophers, legal scholars, and feminist and queer theorists. This course will therefore both provide both a wide-ranging introduction to medieval French texts and an overview of key texts in modern consent theory. 

Class discussion will be conducted in English to accommodate students from all departments!

For more information, contact Charlie Samuelson: