Capstone Experience: Proverbs, Wisdom, and the Pursuit of Knowledge - Writing Intensive

English 4970W
Proverbs, Wisdom, and the Pursuit of Knowledge
Section 1
Johanna Kramer
Strickland 104

In this class, students will explore the role of wisdom and knowledge in a wide range of medieval and early modern literature. Proverb collections, and wisdom literatures more generally, are ancient, highly valued, and cross-cultural bodies of texts that raise issues related to such diverse aspects as learning, advice, social structures and regulations, moral behavior, the power of knowledge, gender relations, folklore, and oral tradition. Starting with biblical precursors of medieval and later wisdom literature, as well as pre-modern and contemporary theoretical writings on curiosity and knowledge, we will think about how different traditions value wisdom, advice, and the pursuit of knowledge differently and how these views then find literary expression. Who should give or is qualified to give advice? What advice can be trusted? How much knowledge should a person acquire? Is there such a thing as too much knowledge? Is knowledge harmful to an individual or to a society? How much knowledge is befitting? In thinking about these questions, we will also explore how wisdom and knowledge intersect with and are modulated by such categories as age, gender, class, and religion. Readings include: Old Testament readings, biblical proverbs and advice literature, Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions, Old English poetry, selections from the Canterbury Tales, and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. This class is a Writing Intensive Course.