English 110

Medieval Literature: Heaven, Hell, and Fairyland: Visions of Other Worlds in Medieval British Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2016 Thornbury, Emily V.
MWF 9-10 note new location: 219 Dwinelle

Book List

Borroff, Marie: The Gawain Poet: Complete Works; Davies, Sioned: The Mabinogion; Gardiner, Eileen: Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante; Treharne, Elaine: Old and Middle English c. 890–c. 1450: an Anthology. 3rd edition.

Other Readings and Media

Readings on bCourses


This course provides a tour of otherworld visions and journeys in the literature of medieval Britain. After looking at some foundational texts from antiquity that influenced writers up to the present day, we’ll examine the geography of the afterlife (heaven, hell, and purgatory), with a particular eye toward understanding how these transcendent realms reflected the more immediate concerns of medieval authors. We’ll consider the physical connection of these places to the normal world, as well as the moral connection they have to human lives; we’ll also look at texts that depict other, less transcendent worlds existing alongside our own. After taking this course, students will know how to find the airport nearest to Purgatory, and what to do if they end up in the fairies’ country: they’ll also be able to analyze the classic motifs and meanings of otherworldly vision literature.

No prior study of medieval literature is necessary. We will read most Middle English texts in the original, while texts in other languages (Old English, Latin, Old French, Middle Welsh) will be available in translation.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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