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The Seven Sages of Rome in England and the World

Faculté de gestion: Faculté des lettres

Responsable(s): Rory Critten
Intervenant(s): -

Période de validité: 2022 -> 2022

Pas d'horaire défini.


Semestre d'automne
2 heures par semaine
28 heures par semestre

Langue(s) d'enseignement: anglais
Public: Oui
Crédits: 0


To introduce students to the Seven Sages of Rome, an important but overlooked text that affords fresh perspectives on medieval reading practices, gender politics, and literary geography. 


The Roman emperor Diocletian's son, Florentine, has been raised outside Rome by the seven wisest men in the empire. Meanwhile, Florentine's mother has died and Diocletian has remarried. Viewing Florentine as a threat, the new empress has Diocletian recall his son to Rome, whereupon she propositions the boy and, when she is rejected, accuses him of attempted rape. To make matters more complicated, Florentine cannot speak: before returning to Rome, he and his masters see in the stars that he will only survive if he remains silent for his first seven days in the capital. 

What follows is a series of stories told by the seven sages and the empress. In each case, the tellers attempt to manipulate Diocletian's behaviour: the seven sages tell stories about the wickedness of women with a view to discrediting the empress and having Florentine freed; in response, the empress tries to secure Florentine's demise by telling stories about bad counsellors and usurping sons.

While the Seven Sages has been overlooked in anglophone scholarship, which has preferred the story collections of Chaucer (Canterbury Tales) and Gower (Confessio Amantis), the poem was immensely popular in the Middle Ages. It was translated from French into all the major European languages and survives in forty different versions, more than two hundred manuscripts, and almost two hundred and fifty early prints. Its transmission can be traced back to the Middle East, where the poem takes its origins in the fifth century BCE. 

This course will introduce students to the <em >Seven Sages via a new edition of the Middle English text that Dr. Critten is preparing in collaboration with Dr. Alison Wiggins (Glasgow). As well as a close reading of the poem, we will discuss topics including its complex form; its gender politics; and its function as a connector between England, Europe, and the Middle East. 


There are three possible modes of assessment:


1) A final essay

2) A faculty oral exam

3) A faculty written exam


A bibliography will be uploaded to Moodle.

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