ENGL 7281: Afterlives of the Middle Ages
Seminar - 4 credits
- The pointing finger on your computer screen.
- The gothic spires punctuating the American skyline.
- The landscape of many a video game.
- The US Marine holding a ceremonial sword.
- These and other residues of the Middle Ages are baked into our everyday lives.
- The appropriation of the medieval is ubiquitous, and never ideologically innocent, running the gamut from Wagner’s Ring opera to the Med-Ren Faire to Dreamworks’ Shrek to the shields that white supremacists carried in Charlottesville.
- In this course, our focus is on the persistence of the Middle Ages as a mode and a theme in literature, music, art, and architecture, as well as in film, video games, and other artifacts of popular culture.
- We will consider such topics as aesthetics, pleasure, danger, canonization, genre, colonialism, the gothic, fantasy literature, and modern responses to medieval representations of class, race, gender, and sexual preference and identity, and pair “host” texts and “symbiont” texts, such as Malory’s Morte Darthur and a selection of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and their reworkings, including film.
- As we read such texts as the Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge, the French Tristan and Iseult and Roman de Silence (a tale of born-sex vs. cultural assignment), the Icelandic Vínland Sagas (the tale of the Norse discovery of America), and the West African Sundiata, we will explore how—and why—we read medieval texts now.
- We will also read a few modern texts that are medievalized in some way, but don’t necessarily derive from any given medieval text (such as James Meek's To Calais in Ordinary Time ).
- Students are encouraged to make connections between the medieval and their own areas of interest, and therefore will choose some of the materials for the last part of the course that should lead to final papers.
- All medieval texts in translation.
- Requirements: short responses to be read and discussed in class, a class presentation, and a final paper.
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