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Medieval Worlds

ENGL 016.302
instructor(s):
Thursday 1:30-4:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major

We twenty-first century folk pride ourselves on thinking “globally” and having at our fingertips information about all people, places, and times. How did people before c.1600 imagine the whole world? In this course we read a variety of medieval and early modern texts that try to take the whole world into account. We will trace the geographical and cultural imaginations of early writers across different genres, from maps, to Islamic, Jewish, and Christian travel narratives, such as the voyages of Marco Polo; to fictive ethnography, such as the account of John de Mandeville (one of Christopher Columbus's favorite writers); to monstrous encyclopedias and books of beasts, such as the "Wonders of the East"; to universal chronicles and crusader romances. Assignments will include weekly responses, an oral presentation, and a final project. We will also have the great opportunity to study medieval manuscripts and early rare books in the Penn collection.