Gillian Adler

Undergraduate Discipline

Literature

BA, Barnard College. MA, University of York, UK. PhD, University of California, Los Angeles. Special interests in Chaucer, medieval English and European literature, narrative temporality, and philosophies of time. SLC, 2018-

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Literature

Holy Lives: Spirituality, Saints, and the Cult of Celebrity in the Middle Ages

Open , Seminar—Spring

The saint in the Middle Ages fostered a cult of celebrity. The rise of pilgrimage, the pervasive fascination with relics, and sensational tales of both martyrdom and miracle popularized saints across England and the Continent. This course will focus on stories interested in the heroism, intercession, and sacrifice of saintly figures, with readings to include Latin, Old English, and Middle English saints’ lives, as well as devotional narratives. We will consider how the paradox of saints—disembodied yet concretely present, at a liminal position between Heaven and Earth—might have transformed conceptions of the spiritual life. Taking a gendered approach, we will pay special attention to the narratives of heroic women saints and their reading communities. This course will encourage visits to see reliquaries and other saintly artifacts housed in New York to complement our classroom study of the textual and material remains of saints.

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Literary Visions From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Open , Seminar—Year

In dream books and visionary narratives from antiquity to the Middle Ages, characters travel through imaginative alternate worlds that test the boundaries of ordinary human experience and provide insights into their own realities. Such narratives of mental adventure and wonder inspired elaborate dream theories and attributed great authority to the poet’s subjectivity. This course will examine the tradition of literary visions, from Cicero’s Dream of Scipio to the late medieval poem Pearl, using an interdisciplinary method that situates texts within their historical, theological, and manuscript contexts. Our study will highlight the formal conventions of the vision genre but also will reveal how many authors resisted a circumscribed form to explore various contentious political, social, and religious ideas.

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