How did medieval people imagine the world? What idealized pasts, foreign places, utopias, and dystopias did they fear or want – and to what end? What myths about gender, race, and nationality to they create or perpetuate? In this prehistory of our own hyper-globalized culture, we'll ask why ideas of the Other – and the Self – exert such power over human minds. Part of our work will be geographical: looking to maps and travel narratives including John Mandeville and Gerald of Wales. But more of our work will be imaginative, even speculative, as we explore monstrous encyclopedias, books of beasts such as the Wonders of the East, and crusader romances.
Students will engage with these materials in formats both critical and creative, through reading responses, two short papers, and a project in the Rare Books Room.
No experience with Middle English necessary!