Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

History Portal

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A Cultural History of Anime

In this module we will look at the historical development of anime, with special attention to its uses in re-imagining post-war Japanese culture and society. From Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors to mushroom-cloud explosions and kawaii aesthetic, come explore how anime shapes Japanese (and others’) perceptions of Japanese history and culture.

A Sip of Tea and Tea Culture

In this module we will explore the cultural history of tea production, tea consumption, and tea-related cultural forms and practices. Primary focus will be on Asia, with side-expeditions to other parts of the world. White, green, Oolong, red (black), the Silk Road, tea bricks, tea ceremonies, tea-and-Zen, tea as world commodity, tea as entheogen---we can explore all of this and more!
Precepted by Robert Steed

Boccaccio’s The Decameron

Boccaccio’s fourteenth-century masterpiece shows ten young Florentine nobles fleeing a city devastated by plague, retiring to a country villa to divert themselves with the telling of tales—one tale each for ten days. Populated by gullible merchants, wily apprentices, self-possessed daughters, and libidinous nuns, these tales feature a series of practical jokes, remarkable journeys, love, deception, and family drama—all with a blend of wit, wonderment, and buffoonery. From this hundredfold collection, our class will look at just a decimal selection—a curated “top ten” tales from this set of ten tens. We conclude the course by watching the 2017 film adaptation of two of these tales, The Little Hours.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Chinese History for Fans of Chinese Media

If you are a fan of any form of Chinese popular media such as CDramas, films, wuxia pian (martial arts films and novels) and so on, you will almost certainly find yourself exposed to a wide array of different historical settings and contexts. In this module we will explore those moments and periods in the history of China that often appear as settings or references in Chinese popular media as a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and enjoyment of it.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Chrétien de Troyes: "Lancelot, Knight of the Cart" and "Erec & Enide"

This course explores two works by Arthurian legend-maker, Chrétien de Troyes. In the first-ever tale of Sir Lancelot, "The Knight of the Cart," Chretien invents the hero who loves Queen Guinevere beyond all bounds of reason—so much that he will face deadly and (even worse) socially humiliating perils to prove his devotion. In the early work, "Erec and Enide," Chretien perhaps invents the tradition of Arthurian courtly romance itself. With Camelot as its background, the knight Erec and maiden Enide pass through a series of trials testing their bravery and love for each other. Told with a mixture of heroic panache, comic irony, and relish for entertaining detail, these foundational works of Arthurian romance show the genius of master story-teller of the high Middle Ages.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Christian and Pagan: Tertullian's Apologetic

How did early Christians respond to persecution? In this module, we will explore Tertullian's masterwork, The Apology. One of the first major Christian works composed in Latin, Tertullian drew upon his education in law and rhetoric to produce this supremely eloquent and passionate defence of Christianity in response to an outbreak of violence. Over four weeks, we will closely read The Apology, discussing its fascinating insights into the world of the early Christians and the challenges they faced.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Creative Writing: Historical Fantasy

Step back in time and unleash the fantastic! In this module, you will unlock the secrets of transporting readers into historical worlds that incorporate magic, myth and legend. Unpacking examples from authors such as Michelle Paver, Lian Hearn and Mary Robinette Kowal, you will discover how to fuse the writing techniques of realistic historical fiction with those of fantasy. You will then have the opportunity to write short pieces based on fun writing prompts and share them in a supportive workshop, or you can share extracts from an extended project if you prefer. A fascinating module that will help you bring life to worlds of wonder and delight.


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Creative Writing: Popular History and Historical Biography

In this module, discover how to craft gripping non-fiction narratives about complex historical events and figures. Learn how to entertain and inform the reader using creative writing techniques such as close viewpoint and character conflict without sacrificing historical accuracy. Using Signum’s collaborative feedback method, you will have the opportunity to develop your own projects in a supportive workshop. Whether you're a beginning author or a history buff, this module offers a unique opportunity to spin new threads in the rich tapestry of the past.


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Demons and Exorcism in History

This module explores the practice of exorcism, from ancient Egypt and the Near East through antiquity and into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will look at spells, rituals, and practitioners as well as the causes of possession, demons, and curses.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Eating Our Way Through Anime

What can a carefully arranged bento box show us about a protagonist’s emotions? How does a steaming bowl of ramen help tell a story? Anime is known for its detailed, mouthwatering portrayals of food. But what exactly makes these artistic culinary delights so special, and why do we keep coming back for more?

In this module, we will consider many aspects of food in anime and its relationship with fandom, culture, and history, and how food signals certain things about characters, settings, and relationships.

Come help us eat our way through anime!

Egyptian Book of the Dead

This module would be an introduction to the Egyptian Book of the Dead without presuming a knowledge of Egyptian Hieroglyphs. We would read about and discuss the origins, transmission, context, and look closely at some different examples.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Exploring Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義

Considered to be one the major classics of pre-modern Chinese literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms focuses on a story of political and military struggle featuring an impressive array of characters, many of whom have become touchstones of Chinese cultural heritage and artistic interest. This novel has spawned a wide arrange of operas, stories, video game series, musical compositions, television and web series, as well as garnering much academic attention since it was first published in the 14th century. Join us as we read, discuss, analyze, and place in its cultural and historical contexts this major work of Chinese historical fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book 枕草子

Sei Shōnagon 清少納言 is a major writer of the Heian period (794-1185) whose Makura no Sōshi 枕草子 (The Pillow Book) has intrigued and delighted reading audiences for centuries. Colorful, witty, incisive, charming, thoughtful, melancholy, poetic---these qualities and more characterize this diary of the famous lady of the court. Join us as we read this text in-depth and place it within the frame of the flow of Japanese culture and history.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring The Analects 論語 of Confucius

In western internet memes, lots of sayings are attributed to Confucius. He did not say most of them. In this module we will engage in a slow reading and interpretation of The Analects , our primary source for Confucius's discourses and dialogues. Your preceptor will also situate this text in currents of historical thought from Warring States China and larger Confucian tradition. Once we are done, you will have gained many skills, including a decent ability to distinguish "Confucius" the meme-able quote machine from the Confucius of the Analects and Chinese historical tradition.
Precepted by Robert Steed

History of the Book Arts

This module gives an overview of writing and alphabets, literary and other works written on stone, papyrus, wax, and parchment.

More from Dr. Swain about this module: I love reading and writing. Both are "technological" revolutions that effected historical moments in human history. This module will look at the development of writing and of reading, the kinds of materials we have written on, and how we prepared those surfaces to record our words. We will learn vocabulary that is used to talk about all this. There will be a lot of pretty pictures!
Precepted by Larry Swain

Le Morte Darthur Series

This series explores Sir Thomas Malory’s masterpiece of Arthurian literature, Le Morte Darthur—one course for each of the work’s eight books or tales. This fifteenth-century retelling is for many the consummate version of the Arthur legend, combining notable elements of prior versions in a form that would influence later retellings for centuries. Context will also be provided on Malory’s life and times, the first printing of his writings by William Caxton in 1485, and the remarkable twentieth-century discovery of the now-standard but then-unknown version of Le Morte Darthur in the form of the Winchester Manuscript.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Arthur's Origins in Malory's "The Tale of King Arthur"

This module explores Sir Thomas Malory’s masterpiece of Arthurian literature,Le Morte Darthur. This fifteenth-century retelling is for many the consummate version of the Arthur legend, combining notable elements of prior versions in a form that would influence later retellings for centuries. The first book of Mallory’s complete work, “The Tale of King Arthur,” includes such crucial Arthurian elements as the Sword in the Stone, the bestowal of Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake, and the founding of the Round Table. Interspersed among these are Arthur’s first encounter with the Questing Beast, an attempted usurpation by Morgan Le Fay, the tragic tale of the two brothers, Sir Balin and Sir Balan, and numerous other episodes and adventures. Context will also be provided on Malory’s life and times, the first printing of his writings by William Caxton in 1485, and the remarkable twentieth-century discovery of the now-standard but then-unknown version of Le Morte Darthur in the form of the Winchester Manuscript.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Knighthood and Chivalry in Malory's Tales of Sir Lancelot, Sir Gareth, and the War with Rome

This module explores Books II, III, and IV of Le Morte Darthur, offering three short, stand-alone tales of Arthur, his knights, and the wider world they inhabit.

Book II, “The Tale of the Noble King Arthur that was Emperor,” shows Malory’s version of King Arthur as military leader and conqueror of Rome. Adapted from the late Middle English alliterative tradition, this tale was not included in Caxton’s original 15th century printing, but only discovered in 1934 with the finding of the lost Winchester Manuscript.

Book III, “A Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake,” shows Lancelot’s kidnapping by Morgan Le Fay, with the political and amatory complications that arise.

And finally, Book IV, “The Tale of Sir Gareth,” (evidently the only tale that Malory invented himself) follows Gawain’s younger brother Gareth from seemingly-lowly origins, through trials and mockery, to eventual triumph as full-fledged knight. With a mixture of the chivalry, comedy, and romance, these three tales make essential reading for any fan of the Arthurian cannon.

Note: Students may participate in this series in any month even if they did not take a previous class in the series.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Looking for Love in Malory's "Tristram and Isolde"

Before it captured the imagination of Wagner and Tennyson, the doomed love affair between Tristan (or Tristram) and the Belle Isolde was recorded by England’s most prolific Arthurian chronicler, Sir Thomas Malory. Included within his sprawling Morte Darthur, Malory’s version of this narrative combines the best elements of the versions that came before and would influence all those that followed.

Placing Malory's version within the broader Arthurian context, this course begins with a brief look at some of Malory’s English and continental predecessors. From there, we read Tristram’s narrative from his anguished origins, through the love-triangle between himself, Isolde, and the scoundrelly King Marc (Tristram’s uncle and Isolde’s husband), to it's tragic conclusion. Amidst war, sorcery, political intrigue, and rancorous family conflicts, the two lovers attempt to snatch what happiness they can before it all comes crashing down.

The story also features the often-poignant and (for medieval audiences) hugely popular adventures of the Saracen knight, Sir Palomides—including his friendship and rivalry with Tristram, his unrequited love for Isolde, and his taking up of the hunt for the Questing Beast. All in all, The Tale of Sir Tristram contains in microcosm all of the major themes and relationship found throughout Le Morte Darthur and Arthurian literature as a whole.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Seeking the Holy Grail in Malory and Monty Python

To achieve the Holy Grail, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad and others must face formidable Black Knights, alluring temptresses, inscrutable hermits, and untold supernatural perils—in two works created five-hundred-and-five years apart.

“The Tale of the Sankgreal,” disseminated as part of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (1470) and the incontestable masterpiece of modern Arthurian cinema, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) are arguably the most popular and influential versions of this story from a twenty-first century standpoint. These contrasting visions of the Grail Quest also share striking and unexpected similarities in terms of plot, form, and tone. This course looks closely at Malory’s text and the Pythons’ oddly-faithful film reinterpretation, side by side. In so doing, we explore what Arthur, the Grail, and the Middle Ages mean to modern audiences, and how changes in form and context radically shape how stories are told and understood.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory's "The Death of King Arthur"

“Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead… and men say that he shall come again…”

Is Arthur dead? Or was he taken to Avalon to be healed? And will he indeed come again one day? Written within the confines of a common prison, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur (c. 1470) addresses these very questions—trying to make sense of Arthur's legendary reign and “piteous” death for a war-torn England at the very close of the Middle Ages. In reading Malory's widely beloved and arguably definitive retelling of the death of the Arthur, this course examines the final dissolution of the Round Table, from the doomed love affair of Lancelot and Guinevere to Arthur's fatal (or near-fatal) wounding by Mordred—a continuous narrative contained within the last two books of Malory's sprawling chronicle, “The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere” and the titular “The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur.” Told with a both poignant sense of loss and an undisguised enthusiasm for chivalric adventure, this lively and idiosyncratic tale of Arthur's death combines the best of all the Arthurian epics that preceded it, and would influence all those that would follow after.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Intermediate Latin Translation: Caesar’s Gallic Wars

Designed for students who have completed an introductory Latin textbook and wish to explore real Latin texts at a gentle pace, this class will cover the translation of selected passages from Caesar’s Gallic Wars. We will parse passages and read Caesar’s prose slowly to allow ample time for grammatical review as students try new translation techniques, and familiarise themselves with Caesar’s prose.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Japanese History for Fans of Japanese Media

In this module we will cover a general overview of major periods, events, and personages that often crop up in Japanese films, dramas, anime, and manga. For example, are you a fan of the manga and drama series Jin? When Dr. Jin finds himself in the Edo period, do you want to know more about that historical context? This module should help with that and much more! Join us for a light and fun overview of Japanese history useful for engaging with Japanese media more deeply.
Precepted by Robert Steed

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life in Letters Series

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? Come and take a deep dive, attempting to do just that, as we look into the life of the maker of Middle-earth! This series will go on an adventure through the life of Tolkien over three months through the lens of the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. As the module follows the narrative presented in Tolkien's own words in his letters, the class sessions will allow for discussions of Tolkien's thoughts and problems as he raises them --- as well as the chance to read and discuss selections of his creative works along the way.

Throughout the course, we will be discussing the events of Tolkien’s life in tandem with the letters and filling out a more complete picture of the man through his work, his personal life, and his creative endeavours. Names, places, and stages of history can all too easily become abstractions on a page but, in this course, we will see the way in which Tolkien's personal environment was intimately connected to his works, and how it shaped the life of the man behind the legendarium.

You can join us for the whole series or just jump in a month at a time as we explore the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien!
Precepted by Sara Brown and Patrick Lyon

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life in Letters 1 First in the Series

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? Come and take a deep dive, attempting to do just that, as we look into the life of the maker of Middle-earth! This series will go on an adventure through the life of Tolkien over three months through the lens of the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. As the module follows the narrative presented in Tolkien's own words in his letters, the class sessions will allow for discussions of Tolkien's thoughts and problems as he raises them --- as well as the chance to read and discuss selections of his creative works along the way.

Throughout the course, we will be discussing the events of Tolkien’s life in tandem with the letters and filling out a more complete picture of the man through his work, his personal life, and his creative endeavours. Names, places, and stages of history can all too easily become abstractions on a page but, in this course, we will see the way in which Tolkien's personal environment was intimately connected to his works, and how it shaped the life of the man behind the legendarium.

You can join us for the whole series or just jump in a month at a time as we explore the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien!
Precepted by Sara Brown and Patrick Lyon

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life in Letters 2 Continuing Series

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? Come and take a deep dive, attempting to do just that, as we look into the life of the maker of Middle-earth! This series will go on an adventure through the life of Tolkien over three months through the lens of the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. As the module follows the narrative presented in Tolkien's own words in his letters, the class sessions will allow for discussions of Tolkien's thoughts and problems as he raises them --- as well as the chance to read and discuss selections of his creative works along the way.

Throughout the course, we will be discussing the events of Tolkien’s life in tandem with the letters and filling out a more complete picture of the man through his work, his personal life, and his creative endeavours. Names, places, and stages of history can all too easily become abstractions on a page but, in this course, we will see the way in which Tolkien's personal environment was intimately connected to his works, and how it shaped the life of the man behind the legendarium.

You can join us for the whole series or just jump in a month at a time as we explore the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien!
Precepted by Sara Brown and Patrick Lyon

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life in Letters 3 Continuing Series

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? Come and take a deep dive, attempting to do just that, as we look into the life of the maker of Middle-earth! This series will go on an adventure through the life of Tolkien over three months through the lens of the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. As the module follows the narrative presented in Tolkien's own words in his letters, the class sessions will allow for discussions of Tolkien's thoughts and problems as he raises them --- as well as the chance to read and discuss selections of his creative works along the way.

Throughout the course, we will be discussing the events of Tolkien’s life in tandem with the letters and filling out a more complete picture of the man through his work, his personal life, and his creative endeavours. Names, places, and stages of history can all too easily become abstractions on a page but, in this course, we will see the way in which Tolkien's personal environment was intimately connected to his works, and how it shaped the life of the man behind the legendarium.

You can join us for the whole series or just jump in a month at a time as we explore the newly revised and expanded Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien!
Precepted by Sara Brown and Patrick Lyon

Latin: Augustine's Confessions

Augustine of Hippo is one of the most important thinkers and writers not only of his age but all subsequent ages as well. The Confessions was the first of its kind as an examination of a human being's interior life and thoughts. On the surface level it is a text about Augustine's journey to Christianity. On a deeper level it is an examination in psychology. And we get to read it in Latin!!
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages Series

This series will look at what life in the Middle Ages was like. What did people eat? What about entertainment? What about work? What was literature like? People will encounter texts, artifacts, and art to help gain a better understanding of life in the Middle Ages.

Each module in the Life in the Middle Ages series will focus on a different theme:
1. The Lives of Peasants
2. The Lives of Clergy
3. The Lives of Nobility
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages (August 2022)

This series will look at what life in the Middle Ages was like. What did they eat? What about entertainment? What work? What was literature like? People will encounter texts, artifacts, and art to help gain a better understanding of life in the Middle Ages.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages: Clergy Continuing Series

Often when folks think of the Middle Ages, they think of the Medieval church. The church was no monolith, however. From the local parish priest to the popes, this module looks at the lives of the clergy: married or celibate, spiritual or worldly, anti-clericalism, and more.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages: Nobility Continuing Series

It's good to be the king. This module looks at the lives of the people at the top of society. This is not about politics, but about their daily lives, the feasting, the interaction with lower classes, literature for them and about them, things that wealth could bring... What was the life of a noble really like?
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages: Peasants First in the Series

We are taught in our culture about the "dark ages," from the so-called "Fall of Rome" to about 1500 or so. This module examines why the "dark ages" aren't dark by looking at the lives of peasants during the thousand year period.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Magic: Grimoires 1

In this module we will use Owen Davie’s Grimoires: a History of Magic Books as a guide to look at a number of different texts, focusing on Late Antiquity to Early Modern books. We will discuss where the books were used, by whom, and how some were related to one another. We will also look at how the books were spread and received, as well as, when possible, some details about individual books. Because of the breadth of the subject we will not have time to delve too deeply into the texts themselves.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Magic: Grimoires 2

In this module we will look more deeply into one or more texts on magic. Using modern translations and publications, we will focus on one or two texts, read and discuss them. This may include the Testament of Solomon, Picatrix, or the Liber Razielis Archangeli, or another text depending on the interest of the participants.

Note: While this is the natural follow-up class to the first Grimoires Module, it can be taken without taking the first Grimoires class.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Magic: Islamic Magic and Occultism

We will explore the early period of Islamic magic and secret knowledge. We will look at various categories of magic, from astrology to talisman magic. Our sources will draw on recent scholarly publications as well as translations of medieval texts.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Parallel Lives: Plutarch's Alexander and Julius Caesar

Virtue and vice: these are the chief interests of the 2nd century biographer, Plutarch. In this module, we will closely examine Plutarch's linked biographies comparing Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, identifying the continuity between the two works. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss Plutarch's depiction of these two pivotal figures of world history, and how it was influenced by Plutarch's struggle to reconcile his Greek identity with Roman supremacy. From the mysterious death of Alexander's father Philip II to the Ides of March, this is a module you won't want to miss!
Precepted by Julian Barr

Plant-based Entheogens, Shapers of History and Consciousness

In this module we will explore the roles that various plant-based entheogens have played, actively and passively, in shaping human consciousness and history. Tea, coffee, chocolate, nutmeg, cannabis, coca, alcohol, opium, pipe-weed (tobacco), and ayahuasca will all be discussed, both in their historical contexts and for their entheogenic properties. Time permitting, we can cover more.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Reading Middle English: An introduction to Middle English Language and Literature

This course introduces the basics of Middle English language and literature, including grammar, syntax, and pronunciation. Designed for students new to reading Middle English texts in their original form, the course focuses mainly on the English of London and the south of England in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries—the language of Chaucer, Gower, Langland and others.

As a language-learning course as well as a literature course, the first half of each meeting will be devoted to reading Middle English aloud and answering questions about pronunciation and comprehension; the second half will focus on the reading’s content, from basics of plot and conventions of genre to the historical context of each text. Course readings include: a selection of lyric poetry, two short poems by Chaucer, the chivalric romance Sir Orfeo, the Chester play of “Noah’s Flood,” a chronicle of the reign of King Henry V, Chaucer’s “Treatise on the Astrolabe,” and selections from the Paston Letters (noble family during the Wars of the Roses).
Precepted by Liam Daley

Representing Utopia through the Ages

While the idea of establishing an ‘actual’ utopia has been disparaged since the first half of the twentieth century from socio-political perspectives (e.g. the failed age of ideology from 1917-1945), literary and related cultural narratives have a long history of imagining and representing utopia (also paradise, the golden age, etc.). These utopias often function to criticize the problematic social norms and climates of their times as well as providing progressive imaginings for a better future, often based on certain ideals or virtues. In this module, we go on a chronological tour of different representations of utopia, including: the paleolithic utopia of hunter-gatherers (e.g. as discussed in Harari’s Homo Sapiens) (before 10,000 BC), the Bronze Age utopia of Minoan Crete (4000-1400 BCE), Plato’s mythical island of Atlantis (ca 400 BC), the pastoral utopia of the Roman poet Virgil (ca 40 BC), the New World utopia of Sir Thomas More (1516), the Enlightened, reasoned utopia of Robinson Crusoe (1719), Tolkien’s fantasy utopia of Númenor (ca 1940), and more.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Shakespeare's Epic Fairy Tales: Pericles and Cymbeline

This module looks at two late plays frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies: Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Cymbeline. In Pericles, Shakespeare and collaborator George Wilkins present a medievalist fairy-tale of adventure on the high seas, set in the ancient Mediterranean and narrated by Middle English poet, John Gower. In Cymbeline, a princess’s attempt to rid herself of the suitor she loathes and reunite with the man she loves leads to a tangle of escapes, pursuits, and mistaken identities. Decried by some critics for their eccentric and eclectic plots, both plays feature grand voyages across land and sea, benevolent magic, and the loss and recovery of true love.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare's Epic Fairy Tales: "The Winter's Tale" and "The Two Noble Kinsmen"

This module continues the examination of Shakespeare’s late work with two baffling and beautiful plays. "The Winter’s Tale" begs the question: where does art end and magic begin? Containing the bard’s most famous stage direction—“Exit, pursued by a bear”—this tale of jealousy and forgiveness transforms from domestic tragedy into pastoral comedy, before finally arriving Shakespeare’s strangest endings. "The Two Noble Kinsmen", Shakespeare’s final work, gives Chaucer’s Middle English "The Knight’s Tale" a Renaissance rewrite. Co-authored with rising start of the Jacobean stage, John Fletcher, this tragicomedy expands the scope of Chaucer’s female characters while hinting at range of suppressed, taboo romantic desires. Blending the poignant and the absurd, the playwrights claim they only hope their “modern” adaptation won’t raise Chaucer’s angry ghost!
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The English Histories

This module examines two English history plays frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies: King Henry VI, Part 1 and King John. The rollicking wartime melodrama, King Henry VI, Part 1, shows Joan of Arc from the English perspective as a foul-mouthed, lascivious witch. The virtuous milksop King Henry VI is all but overshadowed in his own play as Joan bedevils the English forces in France again and again—until her own downfall and death. Shakespeare’s most satirically comical history, King John, by contrast, shows a monarch neither competent nor virtuous! Between John’s corrupt and cowardly bungling of a war France, a war with the Pope, and rebellion at home, England’s only hope is the play’s unlikely (and ahistorical) hero—the wily and charming bastard son of the late King Richard the Lionheart. Unlike most of Shakespeare’s English histories, both of these plays are comfortably stand-alone; no prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s other history plays required.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare's King Lear

This module looks at arguably the greatest of Shakespeare's Tragedies--King Lear. Resolving to divide his kingdom between his daughters, the aged king banishes his closest allies from court, leaving himself and his realm prey to the self-interest and cruelty of those who remain. The course examines this tragedy of betrayal, madness, and family grudges act by act but also supplements these close studies of Shakespeare's text with discussions of the two variant early editions (in Quarto and Folio formats), a brief overview of Shakespeare's sources (Geoffrey of Monmoth's History of the Kings of Britain and Holinshed's Chronicles), and an examination of Nahum Tate's infamous happy-ending adaptation (the only version of the play staged for next 150 years). Expected weekly reading/listening: approx. 50-70 pages (spread across two hours of class).
Precepted by Faith Acker and Liam Daley

Stoicism and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

This course will be structured as a guided reading of Aurelius' "Meditations". We will explore the life of Marcus Aurelius and then spend the bulk of the class reading/discussing his Meditations Books I-XII.

The goal of the course is to get the novice reading of ancient literature comfortable with the text and introduced to an exemplar of stoicism. For the more seasoned student it will serve to deepen their engagement with such an influential and deep thinker in the Western philosophical tradition.
Precepted by John Soden

Such an Odyssey! Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 1 First in the Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 2 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 3 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 4 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

The Argonauts: Apollonius of Rhodes

The journey awaits! In this standalone module, we will read Apollonius of Rhodes' epic Argonautica from start to finish. Guided by a twisted prophecy, our hero Jason embarks on a journey across the roaring waves. His goal: the golden fleece. Jason cannot do it alone, and must assemble the greatest team the Greek world has ever seen-- the fighter Hercules, the seer Idmon, the bard Orpheus, and many more. Their quest will lead them to ancient tombs, magical intrigues and battle with the ravening harpies. Each week, we will read one book of the Argonautica, following our heroes' adventures in a world of gods and magic. Packed with fascinating detail, this module is a perfect introduction to classical myth and epic!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The History of the Symphony: After Beethoven

This module will be a chronological listening tour of the history of the symphony after Beethoven. We will explore the symphony’s subsequent development in the romantic era, and its rethinking in the 20th century. We will listen to some key works together and discuss some of the innovations introduced in those particular works.
Precepted by James Tauber

The History of the Symphony: Beginnings to Beethoven

This module will be a chronological listening tour from the precursors of the symphony in the baroque era to the birth of the symphony in the classical era culminating in the works of Beethoven. We will listen to some key works together and discuss some of the innovations introduced in those particular works.
Precepted by James Tauber

The Life and Legend of St Nicholas

Who was the real historical figure behind Santa Claus? In this module, we will read aloud the earliest biographical sources about fourth century bishop, St Nicholas of Myra. Your preceptor will facilitate discussions of Nicholas' historical context and examine the development of his legend. Together, we will examine Byzantine stories of Nicholas' benefaction and miracles, his role as patron saint of seafarers, students and merchants (among others), and how he came to embody the tradition of gift-giving in Christendom. A wonderful end-of-year treat!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Making of a King: Shakespeare’s “Henriad"

"What art thou that counterfeit’st the person of a king?” This is the question asked (in more ways than one) by Shakespeare’s coming-of-age trilogy about England’s most popular medieval monarch—King Henry V. Beginning with his youth in King Henry IV, Part 1, we see the riotous Prince Hal grow from wastrel, drunkard, and companion of highway robbers into the royal figure his war-torn country needs. After relapsing in Part 2, to the great consternation of his dying father King Henry IV, we finally see Hal lead his subjects on the battlefields of France as the mature king in Henry V. Charting his course between the demands of his kingly father, the peculiar philosophy of his friend and mentor, the exuberant Sir John Falstaff, and the dangers posed by a series of political and military rivals, Prince Hal becomes King Henry V by learning what it means to “act” the part of a king in the ways that matter most.
Precepted by Liam Daley

The Minoans and Modernity: Minotaurs, Labyrinths, and Other Myths

When one thinks of ancient, pre-classical civilisations, one thinks of Sumerians, Egyptians, Hittites, and, not least, Minoans. The Minoan civilisation, discovered around 1900 by English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, has often been styled as the first major European civilisation, equally proficient in technology and the arts, with a sea empire spanning across the Eastern Aegean. But how much of what we imagine about the Minoans is truthful and how much is modern mythmaking?

In this module, we will examine the immense impact which the discovery of Minoan Crete and its integration with the classical myths of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth has had on literature, movies, the arts, and even computer games. We will examine the works of Sir Arthur Evans, Pablo Picasso, Nikos Kazantzakis, Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Poul Anderson, and Stephen King, among others. In so doing, we will explore such key 'Minoan' concepts and phenomena as: the sublime, utopianism, feminism, irrationality and the unconscious, mythmaking, and European identity.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

The (Other) Canterbury Tales

If you’ve read some of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales , you probably encountered the chivalric grandeur of “The Knight’s Tale,” the irrepressible vitality of “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” or the sinister irony of “The Pardoner’s Tale.” But what of the other pilgrims and their tales? This course looks at some of The Canterbury Tales that are less well-known but equally deserving of study: the beauty of the Squire’s unfinished orientalist fairy tale; the rancorous one-upsmanship of the Friar and Summoner’s exchange of tales on clerical abuses, Satanic bargains, and flatulence; or the pilgrims’ run in with an aspiring alchemist, the Canon, and the satirical tale of alchemy gone wrong offered by his servant, the Yeoman. This course will look at these tales and more in their original Middle English spelling.
Precepted by Liam Daley

The Trojan Quest: Aeneid 1

Troy has fallen, but the journey has just begun... This 3-module series will work steadily through the 12 books of Virgil's epic Aeneid, whose influence in the medieval period eclipsed even Homer. Each week we will read one book of the Aeneid in translation, focusing on Virgil's approach to characterisation, plot structure and themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a relaxed reading pace and friendly class discussion.
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Wars of the Roses: Shakespeare’s "King Henry VI"

King Henry V is dead. His son, Henry VI, is young, weak, and will later prove insane. As war with France escalates, in-fighting between fractious and power-hungry English nobles sparks a new war at home: the War of the Roses. Shakespeare’s "King Henry V", Parts 1, 2, and 3 depict this decades-long civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster with a mixture of tragedy, thwarted romance, and dark comedy, ending in the rise of the house of his own reigning queen—the Tudors!
Precepted by Liam Daley

The Witch-cult Hypothesis and Its Afterlives

Imagine a witch. Perhaps, she is a solitary crone, living in a cottage on the outskirts of the village, in equal measures reviled and grudgingly respected by the villagers for her knowledge of midwifery and healing herbs. Perhaps, she is a self-possessed attractive young woman, persecuted by an oppressive authority for her feminist outlook. Perhaps, she is sexually liberated, she conducts strange rituals tied to the land’s fertility, she speaks of the Old Faith as a secret knowledge passed on in secret alongside the official religion. This image of the witch owes much to Margaret Murray’s Witch-cult Hypothesis, an idea that people accused of witchcraft in the medieval and early modern period in the Western world, were the inheritors of a prehistoric fertility cult, which survived as a covert practice alongside Christianity for millennia. Despite being rejected as academically spurious, Murray’s work continues to be incredibly influential for practitioners of modern witchcraft and in popular culture.

In this course, we will take a close look at Murray’s claims, and place them in a historical and cultural context. We will venture outside the academic setting to read witchcraft handbooks and genre fiction, where the witch-cult hypothesis continues its fascinating afterlives.
Precepted by Anna Milon

The Witch in Fact and Fiction

The witch contains a multitude of meanings, from victim to agent of political resistance to a paragon of magical power. While the witch is overtly present in modern media, her origins are often obscured. Is the witch always female? Where does her magic come from? And who devised the eight annual pagan festivals? This module uses Steve Hutton's Raven's Wand fantasy novel (and Book 1 of his Dark Raven Chronicles series) as a starting point to discuss how witches are depicted in fiction and history, and what witches themselves have to say about that.

The Dark Raven Chronicles offer an engaging overview of the main trends for depicting witches in speculative fiction. On our journey through the book, we will discuss what historical details and popular assumptions the author draws on, and how they compare to the lives of people accused of witchcraft in the past, and those who identify as witches today.
Precepted by Anna Milon

Tolkien and the Classical World

Based on the preceptor's edited volume, Tolkien and the Classical World, this module takes students on a tour of the classical influences and ideas on the life, writings, and thought of English fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, while also introducing seminal Greco-Roman texts to those without any classical background.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Tolkien and the Romantics: Forging Myth and History

J.R.R. Tolkien famously 'found' his legendarium, translating and editing The Red Book of Westmarch for his twentieth century readers. This is not the first time an author has 'forged' a 'lost' literary history as James Macpherson's 'Ossian' documents from the 1760s started a craze for forgeries. Thomas Chatterton's Rowley and Turgot manuscripts similarly fed off the Ossian controversy while questioning what it really meant to 'forge' a document.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The 1760s, the Age of Forgery
• Workshop 1: Which Red Book are we reading?
• Lecture 2: The Growth of Romantic Nationalism
• Workshop 2: The Book of Lost Tales: a mythology for which England?
• Lecture 3: Oral Traditions: Immortality and Youth
• Workshop 3: Vocalising Myth and History
• Lecture 4: Textual Traditions: Mortal Anxiety and Tangible History
• Workshop 4: Writing myth and history

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Ubuntu: An Introduction to African Philosophy

Ubuntu has been described as Africa's greatest gift to the world; a philosophy that covers various aspects of humanity, human life—being human. In this module we will be discussing ubuntu as a concept that covers:
- moral philosophy
- human dignity
- human rights
- substantive equality
- human connection
... And, how ubuntu can help explain and address the current most pressing problems.

The module will help in making the philosophy understandable to all audiences, especially considering its uptake and misrepresentation in the media and various platforms. The module goes beyond the usual simplifications of the philosophy and gives an in-depth and yet understandable analysis of the practical concepts within the philosophy, including their usage in solving contemporary problems, from personal/intimate to structural problems.
Precepted by Ishmael Bhila

Video Game Studies

Inviting students to share their delight in, and deepen their appreciation of, video games, we will discuss examples of the art, music, gameplay, and story from a range of influential titles. We will introduce and experiment with some of the theoretical frameworks that have been applied to video games as media objects and cultural artifacts. But mostly, we will enjoy learning more about the medium and the games we already love. Aside from links and selections shared throughout the module, Gabrielle Zevin's novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. will be the only required reading.
Precepted by Wesley Schantz

Warring States Era Chinese Philosophy: Attaining Flow

Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism---these Chinese philosophical systems all have their foundational roots in the Warring States period of Chinese history (475–221 BCE), and as such share a set of common interests, even if their proposals for attaining those interests greatly differ. In this module we will cover the basic concerns of each of these systems, paying attention to their differences as well as their similarities, and perhaps most importantly, seeing how their proposals for the attainment of human flourishing may still have something to offer to contemporary people.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Zen History and Thought: An Overview

In this module we will examine the origins and development of Zen Buddhism from its roots in Mahayana and Daoist thought through its formative years in China and its spread to Korea and Japan. Among other topics, we should have time to cover the Patriarchs of Zen, the Five Houses of Zen, and major figures within the tradition. We will also gesture towards Zen's impact on East Asian arts and culture more generally.
Precepted by Robert Steed
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].