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Medieval World

Medieval World by Dorsey Armstrong
Course No. 8280 (36 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture) Purdue University Ph.D., Duke University
Publisher: The Teaching Company 2010| ISBN n/a | Language English | Audio CD in MP3/Variable | 793 MB

Most of us know that, far from being a time of darkness, the Middle Ages was an essential period in the grand narrative of Western history—one whose political, cultural, economic, scientific, and spiritual developments are an invaluable part of our own modern era.

But what was it like to actually live in those extraordinary times?

* To be a pilgrim embarking with others on a fulfilling spiritual pilgrimage to a saint's holy shrine?
* To be a serf laboring on a farm—both for your family and the lord to whom you were bound?
* To be a knight entertaining crowds in a wildly popular jousting tournament or fighting in the heat of battle?

How did these and other average men and women from medieval Europe eat, work, love, rule, laugh, pray, and mourn? Above all, how different—or how similar—were their lives from the way you live today?

Now you can find out.

The Medieval World offers you a different perspective on the society and culture of the Middle Ages: one that goes beyond a simple historical survey and entrenches you in the daily human experience of living during this underappreciated era. Your guide on this extraordinary historical journey is medievalist and Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University. Drawing on history, literature, the arts, technology, and science, her 36 lectures are a highly nuanced tour that will deepen the way you understand not only the Middle Ages but everything that came afterward: from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment to your own world.

A Unique Understanding on How We Live Now

It is only by studying the lives of everyday men and women in medieval Europe that you can grasp the beginnings of—and connections to—our own 21st-century Western lives. Just like you, these men and women plied their respective trades, raised families, entertained themselves in their spare time, and followed the laws of their society. And their world was one that played an important role in shaping our own modern world.

"For all the differences of the world in which they lived," notes Professor Armstrong, "medieval people were more like us than they were different. It is their world that gave rise to ours, and in our most sacred institutions of government, houses of worship, and social ideals, the shadow of the medieval looms large."

Illuminating the details within these shadows, The Medieval World is a course that is ultimately about people (whether remembered by history or not), the world around them, and how they made their way through their extraordinary surroundings. It's also about the ways in which understanding the medieval experience can shed new light on our own contemporary experience.

Correcting the common modern portrayal of medieval life in profoundly negative terms, Professor Armstrong opens a window onto a world where people didn't just suffer through plague, indentured servitude, and illiteracy. Instead, she reveals a world where people were kind and generous, willing to stand up for what they believed in, intelligent and cunning, ambitious and perseverant.

See the Middle Ages through the Eyes of Its People

Filled with amazing insights, The Medieval World brings you closer than ever before to life as it was lived and felt. In these fascinating lectures, you'll

* meet the likes of William Caxton, England's first printer who not only printed and distributed a variety of works but also often had to translate them himself;
* encounter, in an extraordinary lecture about the intricacies of medieval manuscripts and the monks who labored over them, the legendary demon Titivillus, whose sole purpose was to track monks' errors and thus their worthiness for entry into heaven;
* learn about Hugh of Payns and the role of his Knights Templar—organized for the protection of pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem—in the creation of the first modern bank;
* see how communities dealt with marriage and its challenges in a time when the church had not yet drawn this institution into its own orbit;
* and much more.

Whether dealing with the lives of those building a great cathedral, the advances in naval engineering that would make a future "age of exploration" possible, the fears of a village facing the arrival of a longship filled with Viking invaders, or the terrible reality of the Black Death, Professor Armstrong's lectures will bring the Middle Ages to life like no course you've ever taken.

An Expert Medievalist, A Wide Range of Resources

The Medieval World's perspective on the Middle Ages is a unique one. As a medievalist who approaches the era in large part through its written works, Professor Armstrong frequently uses revealing examples of medieval literature from the English, French, Norse, Icelandic, and Italian worlds. An added bonus is her considerable fluency in those no-longer-spoken versions of our own language—such as the Middle English used by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales.

Professor Armstrong also draws on a wide range of resources to bring this period back to life, including

* detailed maps,
* floor plans of buildings,
* models of a medieval manor,
* full-color renderings of clothing worn by the (surprisingly fashion-conscious) populace,
* period correspondence, and
* musical re-creations recorded on period instruments.

Most of the eye-catching visuals featured in these lectures were commissioned exclusively for this course and can't be found anywhere else.

Presenting her subject in a clear, engaging, and frequently witty style, Professor Armstrong takes care to always root her topics in their necessary historical, social, and cultural contexts—such as the values of the late Roman Empire or the development of Christianity. The result is a thorough course that doesn't require an advanced wealth of knowledge about the Middle Ages but can instead be taken as a stand-alone course.

Rich with information and period detail, The Medieval World is designed to dramatically increase your understanding of how lives in the Middle Ages were really lived. These lives, you'll discover, were not as distant from your own as we once thought. And if they did seem tantalizingly familiar to you before, you'll now know why.

About Your Professor

Dr. Dorsey Armstrong is Associate Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she has taught since 2002. The holder of an A.B. in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from Duke University, she also taught at Centenary College of Louisiana and at California State University, Long Beach.

Her research interests include medieval women writers, late-medieval print culture, and the Arthurian legend, on which she has published extensively, including the 2009 book Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript and Gender and the Chivalric Community in Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, published in 2003. In January 2009, she became editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes the most cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to its enactments in the present moment. Her current research project—Mapping Malory's Morte—is an exploration of the role played by geography in Malory's version of the story of King Arthur.


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