History 204:  Medieval Heroes

Spring 2006

TuTh 11:15-12:05 + discussion section

[jump to schedule]

Dr. Deborah Deliyannis                                                    Associate Instructors:

Office:  Ballantine Hall 708                                               Andrew Koke     

Office Hours: Mondays 2:30-4 or  by appt.                         Anna Muller

Phone:  855-3431                                                             Susan Williams



Discussion Sections Times and Places


Thursdays 1:25-2:15

WT 12-029B   Williams          24699 

FR C147B       Koke               24700 

SY 006            Muller             24701 


Thursdays 2:30-3:20

WH 204          Muller             24702 

WT 12-029B   Williams          24703 

FR C147B       Koke               24704 


Fridays 10:10-11:00  (note:  all three original sections have been combined into one)

LH 019            Williams          24705, 24706, 24707


Fridays 11:15-12:05  (note:  two of these sections have been combined into one)

WH 204          Koke               24708

BU 327           Muller             24709, 24710





A society's heroes, real or fictional, can tell you a lot about that society (think about who our heroes are in modern America).  So heroes are a great way to learn about past societies.  This course is an introduction to the history of the Middle Ages in western Europe through its heroes (and villains).  What made people heroes (or villains) in the Middle Ages? Who can be a hero?  Who can become a heroine?  How did changes in medieval society create changes in people's thinking about heroes?  And how do modern people see these medieval heroes?


There will be a textbook that provides an outline of medieval history, but the main focus will be on the primary source readings.  We will read historical texts, saints' lives, epic poems, Arthurian romances, in order to understand who the heroes were, and how they were presented to people in society.  We will focus on the heroic qualities that people admired, and discuss how they changed between 300 and 1500 AD.





The book required for this course is for sale at the IU bookstore, and has also been placed on reserve in the main library.


Readings from the following textbook is listed on the syllabus as Rosenwein


Barbara Rosenwein, A Short History of the Middle Ages (Broadview Press, 2001).


All other readings can be found online and are linked from the online syllabus on the class webpage, which can be found at





This class consists of two lectures a week, plus a discussion section. There will be short written assignments on the readings, and participation in discussion will be an important part of the class grade.  In addition to the written assignments, there will be a midterm and a final exam.


Attendance and participation in weekly discussion sections              15%

7 exercises (out of 12 assigned) (6% each)                                    42%

midterm exam                                                                            18%

final exam                                                                                 25%


In the discussion classes students are expected not only to learn but also to teach and contribute; discussion will be based on the exercises due in class that day.   If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will be marked absent.  More than three unexcused absences will result in a "zero" being recorded as the discussion class grade, which will lower your final grade by a full 15%. If you have an excusable absence that prevents your attending a class, please let Dr. Deliyannis know so that you can be marked as "excused".  In most cases you will be expected to provide documentation of the reason for your absence.


An exercise has been assigned for 12 of the discussion section meetings.  Each exercise is based on the assigned primary source readings for that week, and is due in class that day.  You MUST attend all of a discussion section for your essay to be accepted (i.e. you can't slip in for the last five minutes and turn it in).


You must do 7 out of the 12 exercises assigned, and you will not be allowed to turn exercises in late.  I suggest that you start writing the exercises at the start of the semester (i.e. don't put it off!), so that when disaster or term papers or sports events strike, you'll be caught up.  Please note that even if you don't write an exercise for a particular week, you will still be expected to have read the assignment and to participate in discussion.


The exercises are essays, which should be 1-2 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins.  "1-2 pages" means more than one page; half of one page will not count and you will receive a 0.  You should make specific reference to the relevant primary source(s), as well as to lectures or material from the textbook to provide a context for the source. 


Extra credit of 1% on your semester average will be given for up to FOUR extra exercises for which you received a B or better. Thus, if you turn in 10 exercises and at least four of them have a B or better, you will be eligible to receive 4% extra on your semester average.  We will record all grades, and calculate your semester grade to your greatest advantage.  If you choose to write more than the 7 required essays + 4 extra credit, then we will automatically choose the essays that received the best grades to calculate your final grade.  In other words, if you write all 12 essays, we will pick the best 7 for your essay grades, and then next four for extra credit.


The midterm exam will consist of identifications and short answer questions.  It will cover the first half of the class.  Part of the final exam will be similar in format, on the second half of the class, and then there will be an essay (topic given out in advance) covering material from the entire semester.


A NOTE ON COMPLETING COURSEWORK:  all coursework must be turned in the day it is due, and tests must be taken on the day they are given.  Excuses and make-ups will only be given if you can provide documentation of a legitimate excuse (i.e. a note from a doctor).  If you fall behind in this class, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE END OF THE SEMESTER to discuss matters with me.  University regulations state that you are not allowed to take an incomplete in a class if you are failing the class.

Tentative Schedule


Jan. 10-13

Introduction:  heroes (and villains)

            Come to discussion section with three of your personal heroes in mind.  Think about two things:  (a) where you learned information about them, and how much you actually know, and (b) what qualities make them heroes to you.  Your heroes can be real people or fictional, contemporary or historical.  They should be public heroes; not a member of your family, for example, unless that person is publicly known to many people.



Early Medieval Heroes 300-1000


Jan. 17-20

Early Christianity       


                  Rosenwein, pp. 19-39

                  Athanasius, The Life of Anthony


            Exercise:  Compare Perpetua and Anthony.  What attributes make them heroic, according to the texts?



Jan. 24-27

The Germans and the fall of the Roman empire


                  Rosenwein, pp. 39-54


            Exercise:  Beowulf is a warrior-hero.  Compare the qualities that make him heroic with those of a modern sports hero.  Choose a specific sports hero and think about the kinds of things written/said about him or her, and compare them to Beowulf.



Jan. 31-Feb. 3

A Germanic King


                  Rosenwein, pp. 59-93
  Anonymus Valesianus:  latter part (The History of King Theodoric)

            Exercise: Is Theodoric a good king or a bad king?  Is this author in favor of him or not?  Why?



Feb. 7-10  

The Early Medieval Church                


                  Gregory of Tours, Selections from Life of the Fathers  (3 files found on Oncourse under "resources")

                  Rudolph of Fulda, The Life of Leoba

            Exercise:  These Christian saints are living in the warrior-world found in Beowulf.  Can you tell this from their Lives?  How?  How might their heroic qualities be designed to appeal to Germanic warrior-types?


Feb. 14-17

Before and after the Vikings


                  Rosenwein pp. 95-162

                  Asser's Life of Alfred the Great:  Part 1 and Part II

            Exercise:   What is the role of the Vikings in Asser's Life of Alfred?  Why are they villains, and in what ways is Alfred made heroic in relation to them?


Feb. 21-24      

Feudalism and knights


                  Rosenwein pp. 167-184

                  The Song of Roland

            Exercise:  What is the job of the heroic knight?  How does Roland compare to Beowulf?  In what ways is he different?



Mar. 1-3    To be announced (no written exercise this week)



Later Medieval Heroes


Mar. 7-10

King Arthur:  creation of a myth        


                  Rosenwein, pp. 185-190

                  Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain

            Exercise:   Remember that Geoffrey of Monmouth was writing this as history.  Is this the King Arthur that you think you know?  What is heroic here?  What is missing?







Mar. 21-24                 

The twelfth-century Renaissance        


                  Rosenwein, pp. 190-237

                  Chretien de Troyes, Ywain:  the Knight of the Lion

            Exercise:  How are the heroic qualities of Ywain related to his relations with women?  Have we seen this in earlier warrior tales?



Mar. 28-31

Robin Hood


                A Gest of Robyn Hode (  read the First Fitte

            Exercise:  What qualities that we have seen in the medieval texts we have read turn up in later Robin Hood legends (including the movies)?  What qualities seem to you to be more modern than medieval?



Apr. 4-7    

A saintly crusader king

  Rosenwein, pp. 190-237, 242-265

                  Joinville, Life of Saint Louis (selections)

            Exercise:  What makes Saint Louis a saint?  What makes him a good king?  Are these two things the same?


Apr. 11-14

The later medieval Church      


                  Rosenwein, pp. 239-242, 265-278

                  Thomas of Celano, The First Life of St. Francis

            Exercise:  Who or what are the "villains" against which/whom Francis must strive?  How is this similar or different from what we saw for earlier medieval religious figures?



Apr. 18-21

Women in the church 


                  Prior Peter and Master Peter, Life of Blessed Birgitta of Sweden  (file found under "resources" in Oncourse)

            Exercise:  Does Birgitta have villains against whom/which she becomes a heroine?  Who or what are they?  Are they the same as the ones against whom/which St. Francis strove?



Apr. 25-28      

Joan of Arc     


                  Rosenwein, pp. 278-323

                  Materials on Joan of Arc:  read Christine de Pizan's song, Joan's Second Trial (relapse), and Enguerrand de Monstrelet's account

            Exercise:  Who is the real Joan of Arc?  How is she presented to the various sides in the real-life political struggle?


FINAL EXAM:  Tuesday, May 2, 5:00-7:00 pm  in this classroom