English 90mr. Race and Religion in Medieval Literature

Instructor: Anna Wilson
Day & Time: Wednesdays 12-2:45pm
Course Website

This course focuses on representations of race, religion, and cross-cultural contact in literature written in western Europe between approximately 800 and 1450 CE, before colonial contact with the Americas. During this period, diplomats, pilgrims, and merchants crisscrossed Europe and Asia, generating fascination with far-away lands and a booming trade in exotic goods; Christian kingdoms of western Europe formed uneasy alliances under the banner of a shared religion to invade Muslim territories and sack Jewish communities in the Crusades; and a global pandemic spread via fleas on ship rats, killing hundreds of thousands and fomenting xenophobic violence. We will read texts from a variety of genres, including religious plays, romances about inter-faith marriage, chansons de geste (poems celebrating deeds in war, often grotesquely violent), and ‘armchair travel’ guides. We will trace the emergence of modern concepts of race and ethnicity in the way medieval Christian writers represented religious difference in/as bodily difference; develop a critical, historically-situated toolkit for analysing medieval concepts and terms around race, ethnicity, and nation; and analyse the role of the middle ages in current conversations about race in America.