Introduction (Spring 2016)


Dear Readers,

Welcome to the Spring 2016 issue of the TEAMS online journal for teachers! I want to thank Prof. Christine Neufeld, who stepped down from her managing editorship of the journal in the Spring of 2015. Her leadership and devotion to the Once and Future Classroom starting in Spring 2007, enhanced the efforts of K-12 teachers to incorporate aspects of Medieval Studies into their classes by creating a space for innovative pedagogical ideas and creative lesson plans to readers of The Once and Future Classroom. As we broaden our outreach to include college- and graduate-level articles, Dr. Neufeld’s work remains a most inspiring model.

For those of you who are familiar with the OFC, there are some changes to note. Our Fall 2015 issue inaugurated our first issue for College-Level teachers. We will continue to publish lesson plans and articles for K-12 teachers but have added much sought after College-Level teaching innovations as well. We hope that the addition of pedagogy at the College-Level will enhance our aim of promoting the study of things medieval to a society which is so often ignorant of the value and influence of the pre-modern.

The Once and Future Classroom is proud to continue to publish the Library Resources column hosted by Dr. Alan Lupack, Emeritus Director of the Robbins Library at the University of Rochester. We are grateful to Professor Lupack for organizing the Library Resources for Teachers column and organizing the annotated bibliographies on varied medieval studies topics. Last fall, we published Scott O’Neil’s annotated bibliography on “Medieval Drama.” In his aim to provide teachers with various ways to incorporate medieval drama into courses, O’Neil provides an introduction to various genres of medieval drama, offers an assessment of a wide range of primary and secondary texts and performances, and proposes ideas for performance-based pedagogy that can be easily implemented in classrooms. This spring, we are fortunate to have two annotated bibliographies for teachers.  Alison Harper’s informative bibliography on “Medieval Popular Religions,” introduces various issues and controversies concerning the meaning of “popular religion” and provides sources and explanations for a subject that she explains “is both understudied and extremely difficult to study.” Kyle Huskin has tackled another large topic: Medieval Women Writers. In addition to providing an annotated list of useful general resources, Huskin’s summaries of the major works of twelve medieval women writers is interesting, accessible and concise. Both of these bibliographies will serve the Medieval Studies Teaching community superbly.

This Spring issue of The Once and Future Classroom also includes seven original essays, many presented and well-received at panels in scholarly conferences. The 2016 Winner of the TEAMS Essay Prize for K-12 teachers, Julie Elb, presented a riveting and lively paper on her inventive approach to teaching about “The Original Odd Couple: Charlemagne and Irene – Lesson for grades 9-12” at the 2016 International Medieval Congress.

Also in this issue, Olivia Robinson and Helen Brookman explain their collaborative approach to teaching Old English Poetry through a class-created translation of the Old English elegy, The Ruin, in their essay, “Creative Translation and Old English Poetry: A Teaching Technique.” The final student product, which we are proud to publish, is remarkable!

We include two essays proposing strikingly different methods for teaching literature through pilgrimage study. Susan Signe Morrison’s “Walking the Walk: Experimental Learning, Pilgrimage and ‘Kynde Knowynge’” suggests ways in which local places, used as pilgrimage destinations, can create a lived experience that can parallel, in some ways, the medieval experience of pilgrimage: “Teaching Piers Plowman in the context of experiential learning has offered my students a productive path to engage with pilgrimage on an empirical level. Students learn through reading Piers, writing about it, and participating in an active learning journey that, like Piers, enacts but also unsettles ideas of pilgrimage. Experiential learning opportunities I’ve established mimic, but also challenge, ideas of pilgrimage in ways that are consonant with Piers.”

Tovah Bender’s “A Journey into Late Medieval Italy with The Inferno” describes techniques she employs for introducing students to the complexities of late medieval Italy through a course in which students travel to Italy combined with a reading Dante’s Inferno. The essay delineates how this “pilgrimage” can enhance the students’ appreciation of what the late Middle Ages in Italy was like. As well as providing an Italian itinerary, Bender offers ways that such a “pilgrimage” can be managed in an American classroom.

Linda Marie Zaerr’s captivating essay, “Horsemen of the Apocalypse Can’t Ride Unicorns: Adventures in Medieval Drama,” presents teaching Medieval Drama through a student performance component, which, she notes, “facilitates personal investment in the material.” Susan Yager focuses on how the differences in verbal distinctions in manuscript passages introduce ambiguity in the meaning of the Middle English lyric, “My Lefe is Faren in Londe.” By introducing to students the idea of the unstable medieval text (that is, differing manuscript versions of this short lyric), she believes one can get to “the very heart of medieval literature. Any manuscript captures a moment in the life of a text, but not its essential nature; its essence consists in variation and change.”

In “Three Approaches to Teaching Pearl,” Jane Beal provides us with a variety of ways to tackle this important but difficult Middle English poem. For non-majors in an “Introduction to Literature,” course, her approach is based on parable, fable, and fairy-tale motifs in Pearl; for English majors in a chronological survey course such as “British Literature I,” her approach is interpretation- and debate-based; and in a course on “The Mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien,” intended for upper-division English majors, students read Tolkien’s translation of Pearl and his prefatory essay to it, “both of which reveal Tolkien’s interpretation of the dream vision.” In this class, Beal combines a reading of Pearl with some of Tolkein’s stories and poems.

I welcome your comments on this issue, your recommendations for subsequent issues, proposals for special issues, and, as always, your submissions to The Once and Future Classroom.



       Gale Sigal
Professor of English
Wake Forest University

The Once and Future Classroom. XII.2 (Spring 2016)
© 2016 TEAMS Consortium for Teaching Medieval Studies