Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Imagining the Whole World in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance cancelled

ENGL 016.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major

Modern internet technologies, such as Google, Wikipedia, digital news, and blogs around the globe. give us access to an enormous amount of information. The problem is figuring out how to absorb and organize that information, what to take in and what to remain ignorant of.  In this course we study medieval and early modern authors who tried to imagine the whole world as they understood it with the technologies and methods available to them. We will trace the geographical imagination of early writers across different genres, from travel narratives, such as the voyages of Marco Polo and John de Mandeville (one of Christopher Columbus's favorites), to monstrous encyclopedias and books of beasts, crusader histories and maps, saints' lives, anthologies, and romances. We will compare Muslim, Christian, and Jewish accounts, and we will spend some time looking at early manuscripts in the Penn library collection.