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

Spring 2005

E 392M • The Idea of England: Topography, Periodization and Medieval Literary Study

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32710 MW
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
UTC 1.142

Course Description

This seminar will examine the category of ‘England’ (a.k.a. Ynglonnd, Anglia, Albion; also Britain/Britannia) as a political, cultural and territorial construct, from a variety of textual and material, disciplinary and historical vantage points. Special emphasis will be given to early English/British literature—as well as to post-medieval literary study—but attention also will be paid to the visual arts and architecture; law and politics; music; documentary/material culture; and social history in its various forms. Seminar participants will help set our agenda, but one line of inquiry will consider how narratives of literary history/historiography (especially cultural periodization, the demarcation of what is ‘medieval’) intersect with paradigms of the geographical, as expressed (for example) in cartography, topographical description and travel writing. Questions of nationalism and coloniality may well figure centrally here; especially crucial will be to track the interplay between insularity and universalism (or more latterly, globalism). Taking into account documentation and interpretation, event and (literary) memory, we will organize around a sequence of key historical sites—whether expressed through foundational figures (Brutus the Trojan, Arthur, Alfred), iconic dates (1066, 1399, 1485) or definitive cultural moments (Black Death, Peasants’ Revolt, Dissolution of the Monasteries). Our point will be to determine how a medieval English past is constructed, deconstructed, reconstituted—asking, in short, to what ends such a conception is successively used. Readings will be drawn from across the spectrum of medieval and medievalist writing (i.e. primary, secondary and theoretical sources). Expect a blend not only of genres, literary and otherwise, but also of the canonical and the obscure; plus, a mixture of premodern material with modern and contemporary/postmodern selections. Seminar participants need not be medieval/early modern specialists, or practicing literary scholars; cross-period, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches enthusiastically encouraged. Research opportunities will be tailored so as to fit, challenge and extend individual scholarly trajectories.


Selections from the chronicle tradition, such as: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (including The Battle of Maldon) Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae Layamon’s Brut Peter Langtoft/Robert Mannyng, The Story of England Brut Y Twysogyon (The Chronicle of the Welsh Princes) Medieval Shakespeare: Henry IV part one; Henry V (film) Political Songs of England, ed. T.Wright Anglo-Norman Political Songs, ed. I. Aspin The Peasants’ Revolt (or ‘English Rising’) of 1381, various sources The Harley Lyrics and other Middle English lyrics, selections Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Beves of Hampton (or some other Middle English/Anglo-Norman ‘insular romance’; specific title t.b.d.) Giraldus Cambriensis, Itinerarium Kambriae (Journey through Wales) and Descriptio Kambriae (Description of Wales) The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-43, ed. L. Toulmin Smith (selections)


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