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

Fall 2008

E 326K • Literature of the Middle Ages in Translation

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35275 MW
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
PAR 105

Course Description

This semester, our survey of medieval literature will explore how medieval Europe saw its "others": the alien nations of the world, in the form of Islamic civilization, Mongol, and Asian societies, and minority communities in the heart of Europe, such as those constituted by medieval Jews.

We'll read texts from a variety of genres-- romance, biography, historical reports, and travel literature-- to consider what "Europe" in fact was at this time, and examine how encounters with alien nations figured in the coalescence of European identity and culture. Concomitantly, we'll read critical accounts by contemporary historians and literary scholars that contextualize, interrogate, and complexify the original documents we read.

We'll approach our subject through 3 main thematic intersections that represented the principal ground of encounter between Europe and other nations: war, religion, and travel. In these contexts, we'll ask ourselves what the medieval West wanted from the rest of the world, what was at stake in the international contests of religion and military conflict, and how the opening up of terra incognita to trade and exploration changed the West.

Grading Policy

A term paper of at least 12 pages (50%), 2 in-class presentations (30%), attendance and active participation (20%). Texts listed here are suggestive, not final. All texts but one will be read in modern English translation.


Edward Said, Orientalism
Chaucer, The Prioress's Tale
Ibn Fadlan, In the land of the Vikings
Selections from John Tolan, Nerina Rustomji, Dorothee Melitzki, others
The Siege of Milan
The King of Tars
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Marco Polo, The Travels
Beha ad-Din, Biography of Saladin
Roman de Saladin

Packet of readings


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