English 165

Special Topics: Modern Medievalism: A Study of Medieval Poetry and Modern Fantasy

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2015 No instructor assigned yet.
TTh 9:30-11 301 Wheeler

Book List

Borroff, Marie, trans.: Pearl; Borroff, Marie, trans.: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Davies, Sioned, trans.: The Mabinogion; Heaney, Seamus, trans.: Beowulf; Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Lord of the Rings; Tolkien, J.R.R., trans.: Sir Orfeo

Other Readings and Media

Also a course reader.


The medieval period is often swept under broad descriptors, like the "Dark Ages," and with these descriptors come equally vague notions of medieval society. One might, for example, imagine medieval society enveloped by religious hysteria provoked by plague; indeed, we often encounter such portayals in films. However, these inaccuracies are sometimes deliberate. Instead of attempting historical accuracy, writers portray an imaginary Middle Ages to connect the medieval to the modern; re-imagining the Middle Ages thereby provides these writers a unique perspective for examining contemporary ideas and society. This class will explore the pseudo-medieval settings of modern fantasy, and the medieval poetry that inspired them. We will examine two influential writers of the genre: George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien. But while we will read selections from their work (and in the case of Martin, watch scenes from the HBO series Game of Thrones), most of our time will be spent examining the medieval poetry that helped shape their writing and the fantasy genre.


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