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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2008

E 379S • Race in the Middle Ages

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35420 MW
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
PAR 204

Course Description

Literature and history suggest that the Middle Ages--like other periods before and after--were intensely interested in issues that we now today identify as "race-related." It is also clear that the concept of "race" in the medieval period is complicated by religion, ethnicity, and various economic, political, social, military, and other factors. Those of us familiar with cultural and political work on race also know that no theories of race exist as yet which adequately treat premodern periods like the Middle Ages. With very few (highly controversial and disputed) exceptions, definitions of race have been devised from studies on cultures and societies that existed only during and after the Renaissance.

This senior seminar thus constitutes an invitation to explore, with me, the changing patterns, meanings, and uses of racializing discourses in medieval Europe from the 12th through 15th centuries, by looking at some of medieval culture's most prominent texts, legends, and artifacts. We will look at literary romances and epics, travel literature, historical documents, manuscript illuminations, saints' legends, heraldry, genealogy, maps, and whatever else may be useful to us.

Grading Policy

Students will keep a journal in which to record thoughts and insights, and develop ideas and arguments (10% of final grade). At 3 weeks, I will need a detailed outline of 3-5 pages, double-spaced, typed (10%) of a final research paper at semester's end; at 8 weeks, an 8-10 page draft of the paper must be submitted (15%),and at semester's end, the final paper of 12-15 pages, double-spaced, typed, must be submitted (25%). Grading as follows: 60% for writing; 40% for presentations, attendance, and active participation.


Illustrations from The Image of the Black in Western Art, Vol 2; The Song of Roland (medieval epic); The King of Tars (medieval romance); Parzival (medieval romance); Illuminations, Bury St Edmunds bible; The legend of William of Norwich and Hugh of Lincoln (martyrology); Geoffrey Chaucer, The Prioress' Tale; The Journey of William of Rubruck to the Mongols (ethnography); Marco Polo, Travels; Selected letters and documents of Franciscan missionaries in medieval China; The Hereford world map; Articles by Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Paul Edwards, Paul Gilroy, Michel Foucault, Ernst Renan, Homi Bhabha, etc


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