Topics in English Literature: Medieval and Early Modern Travel Writing
Fulfills Distributional Course in Arts & Letters (for students admitted before Fall 2006)
In this class, we will read multiple genres of travel from the late medieval period and early modern period. The class will read material about pilgrimage from the medieval period (the "Prologue" to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and The Book of Margery Kempe). Students will also be asked to read two versions of the English tale of Constance who travels from Rome to "Araby" and then to pagan England in both the Chaucer ("Man of Law's Tale") and Gower versions. Students will then be asked to read Mandeville's Travels, an imaginative account of a former crusader's travels to the lands of the Sultan of Babylon, the Cham of Cathay, and Prester John. Alongside the incredibly popular and allegedly "truthful" Mandeville, we will read excerpts from the often-disparaged travelogue of Marco Polo. We will read the writing of Marco Polo and Columbus in order to bridge the gap between medieval and early modern. As we enter the early modern period, we will read tales of exploration from English travelers and settlers in the New World such as Thomas Harriot's "Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia." We will read imaginative writing in the context of reports and tales that emerge from the new world: More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Shakespeare's The Tempest, and Ben Jonson's News from the New World Discovered from the Moon and Every Man in His Humor.