Graduate Course Offerings

Spring 2024 Graduate Courses

ENGL 7600: Medieval Topographies

Dr. John Geck

Tuesdays 1-4 p.m.

Image: Map of Europe from the Liber Floridus (Ghent, Ghent University Library, Ms. 92, f. 241r)

“The people all in common, men and women, of that province are painted or pricked with the needle all over their flesh as I shall tell you. For they make themselves pictures with needles in a colour of blood on their faces and all over their flesh of cranes and of eagles, of lions and dragons and of birds and of many other likenesses different and strange, so that nothing is seen not drawn upon and not scratched. And they are made with needles very cunningly & in such a way that they never go off by washing nor by other way.”

                        -Marco Polo, “The Province of Caugigu,” The Description of the World, chap. 127

“Our entry into Constantinople the Great was made about noon or a little later, and they beat their church-gongs until the very skies shook with the mingling of their sounds. When we reached the first gates of the king’s palace we found it guarded by about a hundred men, who had an officer of theirs with them on top of a platform, and I heard them sayingSarākinūSarākinū, which means “Muslims.”

                        -Ibn Battuta, from The Travels of Ibn Battuta, A. D. 1325-1354: Volume II, Routledge, 2011. 

“World building” has long been a term of art in critical assessments of science fiction and fantasy, but it has been used less in the study of medieval travel literature. Preceding the so-called “Age of Discovery,” the European Middle Ages (ca. 500 – 1500) was a period marked by travel and cultural exchange; Muslim, Christian, Jewish, African, and Asian travel-writers (and their audiences) would then attempt to comprehend these exchanges and reconcile them with the various cosmologies that governed their cultures.

In this course, we will read a series of medieval travel narratives, both fiction and (purportedly) non-fiction, including those by Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, John Mandeville, Wu Cheng’en, and Benjamin of Tudela. In addition to seeing what these works say about the Middle Ages, we will also interrogate the historiography that has shaped both medieval studies and modern popular understandings of race, religion, and identity.

Secondary literature will include works by Suzanne Akbari, Geraldine Heng, Mary Baine Campbell, Catherine Holmes and Naomi Standen, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha, among others.

ENGL 7301: Cultures of Energy (Energizing Irish Studies)

Dr. Danine Farquharson

Tuesdays at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Image: Gáis Energy Theatre, Wikicommons


Together we’ll integrate the latest in Energy Humanities theory/scholarship with Irish cultural texts. Why Irish texts? Because Ireland is not among the places Energy Humanities scholars turn their attention; eco-environmental thinkers have focussed on Ireland for over 150 years, but not the energy-focussed ones. Let’s find out why and then think together about how we can ‘read’ Irish cultural texts with and through energy. Opening texts for theory/methodological background are Szeman’s On Petrocultres (West Virginia) and Boyer’s No More Fossils (Minnesota). No experience with Irish literature required!

ENGL 7333: Culture Jamming: The Art of Ideological Disruption

Dr. Bradley Clissold

Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Image: Adbusters


This graduate course explores the critical history of political and social activism through adversarial media practices, and offers participants opportunities to perform creative acts of linguistic, textual, and media resistance on select types of found hegemonic cultural communication (from magazine advertisements, film posters, and tourist postcards to public health brochures, product instruction manuals, and newspaper articles). In particular, we will study the media activism and disruptive ideological tactics of artists like Barbara Kruger, Negativland, Adbusters, Billboard Liberation Front, Guerrilla Girls, Banksy, Genesis P-Orridge, Marcel Duchamp and other twentieth-century Surrealists, as well as fictional figures in literature and film, who effectively repurpose found media and culture jam accepted codes of cultural representation. We will also investigate the origins of the term “culture jamming” and its various audio/visual/textual détournement practices, examine the theoretical works of important thinkers on the subject, and research the coopting of such subversive media tactics by contemporary corporate capitalism.

For more information, please contact Dr. Bradley D. Clissold (

ENGL 7359: Arthurian Romance: Malory and his Predecessors

Dr. Bill Schipper

Mondays at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Image: Plaque (Ivory) from a Casket with Jousting Scenes, ca. 1320–40. Made in possibly Paris, France. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.256)


Arthurian romances have proven to be enduringly popular. Although stories about King Arthur they may have originated in the Welsh speaking part of Britain, they took on a life of their own after Geoffrey of Monmouth completed his Historia regum Britanniae, who placed Arthur “at the apogee of his two-thousand-year arc of British history” (as W. R. J. Barron notes in the introduction to Arthur of the English [2011]).

This course will look at some representatives of the literary tradition of Arthurian romance, beginning with Geoffrey’s pseudo-history, and concluding with Sir Thomar Malory’s Morte Darthur. William Caxton’s publication of this text in 1485 became a text which was the only way post-medieval writers were able to access the stories about Arthur until Walter Oakeshott (re)discovered an earlier manuscript copy in Winchester College, and Eugène Vinaver completed his The Works of Sir Thomas Malory in 1948.

Arthurian literature took many forms in a number of languages: Anglo-Norman (Wace), Middle English historical writing (the Brut), an outpouring of French romances in the thirteenth century (Chrétien de Troyes, long cycles of romances in prose, many of which survive in elaborately illustrated and richly illuminated manuscripts), Middle English poetry (the stanzaic Morte Arture, Sir Gawain and the Grene Knight, the Alliterative Morte Arture), in addition to a large host of other poetry both good and bad. And post-medieval retellings abound, from Spenser’s Faerie Queene, to Dryden’s libretto for Purcell’s opera King Arthur, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, and numerous others.

Since Malory’s long prose telling of the tales forms a culmination of more than 350 years of imaginitive writings about Arthur, the Round Table, and its collection of knights, it makes sense to select a few of these stories that were also known to Malory (in English or in French), and which he is known to have incorporated or refashioned in the Morte Arthur.