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

The Middle Ages Portal

Advanced Old English: Beowulf I

Spend the time reading and translating in a relaxed manner with friends! This beautiful, moving, narrative poem is a joy to work with and I hope you will join me for a month of study.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Advanced Old Norse: Vǫlsunga Saga Continuing Series

The Advanced Old Norse reading modules return to Vǫlsunga saga (“The Saga of the Vǫlsungs), a medieval Icelandic retelling of one of the best-known legendary cycles of the pre-modern Germanic-speaking world – stories that influenced the operas of Richard Wagner, the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, and many other modern creative artists. This module picks up where previous iterations of this module left the narrative. We will translate the text of the saga and discuss both its language and how its version of the legends relates to other versions known from the medieval world. Anyone with a reading knowledge of Old Norse can join this module!
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

Advanced Old Norse: Vǫlsunga Saga Continuing Series

The Advanced Old Norse reading modules return to Vǫlsunga saga (“The Saga of the Vǫlsungs), a medieval Icelandic retelling of one of the best-known legendary cycles of the pre-modern Germanic-speaking world – stories that influenced the operas of Richard Wagner, the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, and many other modern creative artists. This module picks up where previous iterations of this module left the narrative. We will translate the text of the saga and discuss both its language and how its version of the legends relates to other versions known from the medieval world. Anyone with a reading knowledge of Old Norse can join this module!
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

Advanced Old Norse: Vǫlsunga Saga Continuing Series

The Advanced Old Norse reading modules return to Vǫlsunga saga (“The Saga of the Vǫlsungs), a medieval Icelandic retelling of one of the best-known legendary cycles of the pre-modern Germanic-speaking world – stories that influenced the operas of Richard Wagner, the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, and many other modern creative artists. This module picks up where previous iterations of this module left the narrative. We will translate the text of the saga and discuss both its language and how its version of the legends relates to other versions known from the medieval world. Anyone with a reading knowledge of Old Norse can join this module!
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

Advanced Old Norse: Vǫlsunga Saga Continuing Series

The Advanced Old Norse reading modules return to Vǫlsunga saga (“The Saga of the Vǫlsungs), a medieval Icelandic retelling of one of the best-known legendary cycles of the pre-modern Germanic-speaking world – stories that influenced the operas of Richard Wagner, the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, and many other modern creative artists. This module picks up where previous iterations of this module left the narrative: with the hero Sigurd preparing to confront the dragon Fáfnir. We will translate the text of the saga and discuss both its language and how its version of the legends relates to other versions known from the medieval world. Anyone with a reading knowledge of Old Norse can join this module!
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

Big Bold Beowulf: A Study of the Poem

Always wanted to study Beowulf? Here's your opportunity. In our 8 hours together, we will delve into the worlds of the poem, examine the major critical elements, and seek to understand the poem better.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

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.

Chaucer in Middle English: The Canterbury Tales

Read what Chaucer wrote in his own language! The famed Canterbury Tales are a wonderful read in Middle English and this module will focus on The Miller’s Tale.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Exploring Journey to the West

One of the most beloved of all classical Chinese novels, Journey to the West features Monkey, Pig, Sand-demon, White Horse, and the monk Tripitaka as they make a pilgrimage from Tang-dynasty Chang’an to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures, having outrageous adventures all along the way. Full of humor and wit, this is a major work of East Asian fantastic literature. Come along with Monkey and the gang for a tour through this foundational text!
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Here Be Dragons

You wouldn't want to end up like Eustace Clarence Scrubb, would you: strong on imports and exports, but weak on dragons? To avoid that fate, come and talk about dragons old and new, wicked and glorious, beloved and feared in many a tale. Python, Hydra, Draco, Leviathan and the Colchian dragon threatened Classical heroes. Germanic gods and warriors contended with Níðhöggr, Jörmungandr, Starkheart, and Fafnir. There are dragons in Arthuriana and medieval folklore. And of course, dragons proliferate in more recent fantasy, including those by Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Christopher Paolini, and more. We'll read short excerpts from a wide range of European and American literature, looking at the evolution of the dragon, and attendees will be encouraged to bring in additional texts for discussion. You'll be well prepared for sleeping on a dragon's hoard after this!
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Inventing King Arthur: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain

This course offers an in-depth look at the first complete “historical” narrative of the reign of King Arthur, Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae – as well as the centuries-long controversy this book generated. Comprising almost a quarter of Geoffrey’s History (Books 4 – 11), this crucial first account of the king includes the arrival of the Saxons in England, a battle of dragons, the boy Merlin’s prophetic visions, Arthur’s magically-contrived conception, his conquest of Rome, and his overthrown and death at the hands of his nephew Mordred. This course will also look at the battle of books that ensued following the appearance of Geoffrey’s work, with some contemporary chroniclers alleging that Geoffrey had simply made the whole thing up, and others rallying to Geoffrey’s (and Arthur’s) defense.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Japanese Classical Theater: Noh, Bunraku, Kyogen, and Kabuki

In this module we will explore the historical origins and development of these forms of Japanese theater. We will situate them in their historical, cultural, religious, and economic contexts, as well as watching substantial video clips from each to spur discussion.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Japanese Historical Archetypal Characters: Samurai, Ninja, Monks, Miko, Yakuza

Join us as we discover the historical origins and literary presences of these categories of people who often appear in Japanese and Japan-related narratives. We will also pay attention to the "systems" in which they participate, including economic, political, and religious, as well as aspects of culture that shape them such as codes of bushido, monastic life, shamanism, and political struggle.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún

Love, power, betrayal, death; the occasional dragon and cursed ring. All these are to be found in the legends of the Vǫlsungs and Niflungs, amongst the most popular and abiding legends of the medieval Germanic-speaking and Norse worlds. J.R.R. Tolkien reworked these into two poems in Modern English patterned after the alliterative style of Old Norse poems. In this module, we read Tolkien’s poems and their accompanying commentary to see how Tolkien wrought his own retelling of these ancient tales, and we’ll trace the connections across from the original medieval legends through Tolkien’s retelling to his original works of fantasy set in Middle-earth.
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

Life in the Middle Ages

This module 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.

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.

Malory’s Morte Darthur 1: The Tale of King Arthur First in the Series

This course offers the first in a series on 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. 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.

Malory’s Morte Darthur 2: Sir Lancelot, Sir Gareth, & War with Rome Continuing Series

This course marks the second part in a series on Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, but you do not need to have taken the first part to join. This module explores Books II, III, and IV of the 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.

Malory’s Morte Darthur 3: Tristram and Isolde Continuing Series

This frequently overlooked portion of Le Morte Arthur contains the longest and perhaps richest of the book’s stand-alone narratives. The Tale of Sir Tristram de Lyones (the fifth book in Malory’s Arthurian saga), follows Tristram from his tragic origins—his mother died in childbirth while searching for her kidnapped husband— through Tristram’s doomed love affair with the Belle Isolde, wife of his bullying and cowardly uncle, King Marc. 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 is said to contain in microcosm all of the major themes and relationships found throughout Le Morte Darthur as a whole.

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.

Malory’s Morte Darthur Series 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.

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.

Medieval Drama: Staging the English Bible

Late medieval English drama brought episodes from The Bible to life in days-long festivals of pomp and pageantry—but what these plays really show us is the day-to-day lives of ordinary men and women of the fifteenth century. With a mixture of lavish spectacle, slapstick comedy, and intimate poignancy, these plays populate the biblical world with familiar figures of the medieval city-life: shrewd workmen and cunning criminals; disgruntled wives and worried husbands; the friends, family, and neighbors of plays’ writers and performers.

This course looks at a sampling of plays from the great civic drama cycles of York, Chester, Coventry, and elsewhere, including Noah’s Flood, The Second Shepherd’s Play, Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents, The Crucifixion, The Harrowing of Hell, and The Last Judgement. The works presented here offer both a grand history of the world from Creation to Doomsday, and locally-rooted, vernacular versions of a text then otherwise available only in Latin. Knowledge of Middle English is not required since this course will use the modern-spelling edition by Prof. A. C. Cawley. Scholarly online Middle English versions, however, will also be made available for students wishing to practice their skills in that area.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Medieval Drama: The Towneley Plays

In this course, we will "perform" and discuss a group of medieval plays formerly known as the Wakefield cycle. These plays, which include the famous "Second Shepherds Play" are considered masterpieces of dramatic craft, designed to bring fifteenth century English audiences into raucous-yet-reverent contact with sacred history--in a time when there was as yet no "fourth wall." As we read and reenact these plays, we will practice our Middle English, talk about staging and affective piety, and learn about these plays' suppression in newly-Protestant England, as well as their rediscovery in the early twentieth century.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Medieval Monsters: Grendel

In this course, we'll wrestle a bit with Grendel (no sword required) and explore the murky origins of the best-known medieval monster--trying to get to the bottom of some of the most enduring questions in Beowulf-scholarship: Is Grendel a spirit, a man, or a giant? Are we meant to sympathize with him? Why doesn't he speak? And why does he have a bag? This is primarily a close-reading of relevant passages in Beowulf (translation provided), but we'll pick up clues along the way from potential sources, analogues, scholarship, and modern adaptations.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Medieval Travels: The Book of John Mandeville

In this course, we'll read the medieval bestseller, The Book of John Mandeville, journeying with its fictitious author to Jerusalem...and beyond. We'll find ourselves in the medieval Holy Land, as well as in the fabled realm of Prester John, the territories of monstrous peoples, the garden of the trees of the sun and moon, and finally at the very doorstep of Eden. What does this very popular travel account show us about the way Western medieval Christians viewed themselves in relation to the rest of the world? And how can Mandeville's account, with its hodge-podge of facts, monster legends, and miracle stories, serve as a guide for travelers today?
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Middle High German 1: An Epic Introduction First in the Series

Middle High German (MHG) is the umbrella term for the German dialects used in the Holy Roman Empire from about 1050 to 1350. Its written form was the language of the court, and most MHG poetry embraces chivalric intellectual interests – adventure, romances, and courtly love! In our epic introduction to the language, we begin with a poem on subject matter that Old English and Old Norse students will immediately recognize: Das Nibelungenlied, the story of Siegfried (Sigurd) the dragon slayer, who we all know from the Völsunga Saga, the Poetic Edda, and (as his father Sigmund) Beowulf.

This module requires absolutely no modern German, but you may find that the course awakens that bit of “school German” you remember from high school. We will read our text – the 14th “Adventure” of The Nibelungenlied – slowly, as a small reading group. The benefit of the Nibelungenlied’s style is that enjambment is rare and each line can be treated as a single sentence.
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

Middle High German 2: An Epic Continuation Continuing Series

This module is a continuation of Middle High German 1 with the plan to continue with the 14th âventiure of the Nibelungenlied until we complete it. After that, we will switch to some Arthuriana - Iwein, by Hartmann von Aue, the German “translation” of Chrétien de Troyes’[s] Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. Also, if the students want to read something else, your preceptor is all ears!
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

Middle High German Series Series

This is the landing page for Dr. Isaac Schendel's Middle High German Series which consists of two modules: Middle High German 1: An Epic Introduction and Middle High German 2: An Epic Continuation. For more information check out the module links below.

Also: Please wishlist this page if you are interested in taking Dr. Schendel's Middle High German series when we offer it next.
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

Old Norse Sagas in Translation: Sagas of Heroic Legend

Somewhere between the historical and the fantastic are the traditions of heroic legend, telling of extraordinary men and women whose triumphs and tragedies are writ larger than those of everyday life. In medieval Scandinavia, sagas of heroic legend such as The Saga of the Volsungs, The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, and The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek retold already ancient stories in the new prose styles of the Middle Ages. Bravery and knavery; loyalty and treachery; magic and the mundane, horror and hope; these tales’ themes have enthralled audiences for more than a thousand years and played an outsized role in the birth of modern fantasy literature.
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

Planet Narnia

Do you believe that the Narnia chronicles have a secret code hidden in their imagery and themes? Would knowledge of medieval astronomy and astrology add depth to our reading of these children's books? We'll read Michael Ward's book Planet Narnia in conjunction with a re-read of the Narnia itself and debate the merits of his planetary interpretation. This course will work best for those who have read Lewis's series before.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Readings in Middle English before Chaucer: Havelock the Dane

Havelock the Dane is lovely fairy tale type story that sits between heroic epic and developing Romance genres looking into a now distant past, and showing how an unjustly treated child grows to be a great king.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Readings in Middle High German: Das Eckenlied

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous Middle High German Modules, looks at a representative of the Medieval German aventiurehafter Dietrichepik, or legendary stories of the mythical King Dietrich von Bern (Theoderic the Great?). This song, equal parts romance and epic, tells the stories of the wannabe knight Ecke, the foolhardy giant who seeks out Dietrich von Bern and perishes in the duel, and of Dietrich von Bern’s subsequent quest to return Ecke’s disembodied head to his (Ecke’s) home of Seburg.

This module, like the other Readings in Middle High German, will both look at the poem as literature and as a chance for interested students to continue perfecting their Middle High German reading skills. We will read selections of the text in Middle High German and translate them into English. Once translated, we will then discuss the segments both in isolation and in connection with the poem as a whole. Although no English translation of the Eckenlied exists, a summary of the complete poem will be supplied.

Questions discussed in the module will include questions of genre and the relationship of the poem to oral poetry, characterization of ambiguous heroes like Ecke and his brothers, perceptions of the so-called “Heroic Age” during Medieval Europe, intertextual relationships between Dietrichepen and other heroic poems, and gender in the past-within-the-past.

The language of the Eckenlied is roughly equivalent to the language of the Nibelungenlied, so completion of the Middle High German 1 and 2 modules are strongly encouraged. If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact Dr. Schendel.
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

Readings in Middle High German: Diu Klage

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous two Middle High German modules, focuses on the “concluding poem” of the Nibelungen Mythos, Diu Klage (The Lamentation), a 4360-line epic in rhyming couplets devoted to the aftermath of the slaughter in Etzel’s Hall. We will devote ourselves to both a close, philological reading of selected lines (about 20 lines per hour) and a general discussion of the entire work in English translation (German material can be consulted, of course, but the language of instruction is in English).

This session is intended both for veterans of the Middle High German modules and for beginners. If any beginners enroll, the discussion of MHG verse will focus a bit more on foundational grammatical concepts, but there will still be enough to interest and challenge advanced MHG readers.

Discussions of the text will look at it from a variety of perspectives, including: The “Heroic Age” in a High Medieval perspective, investigations of emotion in Middle High German verse, and intertextuality (both within German literature and across Germanic tradition). Students are, of course, welcome to bring their own expertise and interest – feel free to take up contact with the instructor ahead of time with your input!
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

Readings in Middle High German: Herzog Ernst

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous Middle High German Modules, looks at another representative of the Medieval German so-called Spielmannsdichtung (pseudo-minstrel tales). It tells the story of the Duke Ernest, who after unsuccessfully waging an assassination attempt and civil war against his misled step-father (and Holy Roman Emperor) flees to the Far East as a crusader, encountering mythical creatures and far-off places reminiscent to anyone who has read the Old English Wonders of the East.

We will follow the methods used in other Middle High German modules and look at the Herzog Ernst poem both as literature and as a chance for interested students to continue perfecting their Middle High German reading skills. We will read selections of the text in the original language and translate them into English. Since it’s not entirely feasible to assume that everyone has access to a modern English translation, we will primarily discuss the translated sections, although a summary of the poem in general will be given.

Questions discussed in the module will include questions of genre (as always) and the connection between the frame story and the second narrative, monsters and the bridal-quest, the medieval political philosophy and the HRE (Holy Roman Empire), crusade poetry, and more.

The language of Herzog Ernst is roughly equivalent to the language of the Nibelungenlied, so completion of the Middle High German 1 and 2 modules are strongly encouraged. If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact Dr. Schendel.
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

Readings in Middle High German: Orendel

This module, which builds on the skills taught in previous Middle High German Modules, looks at a representative of the Medieval German so-called Spielmannsdichtung genre of short epics: Orendel. The titular hero of the epic, distantly related to the Old Norse Aurvandill, is a King with a fairy-tale mission to woo the beautiful Bride. He undergoes a number of adventures, including the discovery of Christ’s Tunic, in a paradigmatic example of a medieval Bridal Quest.

This module will both look at the poem as literature and as a chance for interested students to continue perfecting their Middle High German reading skills. We will devote ourselves to a close, philological reading of the most important passages in the text.

This module is intended both for veterans of Middle High German and for beginners. If any beginners enroll, the discussion of MHG verse will focus a bit more on foundational grammatical concepts, but there will still be enough to interest and challenge advanced MHG readers.

Discussions of the text will also look at it from a variety of perspectives, including: What is the Spielmannsdichtung genre? How do the Christian Faith and Bridal Quest narratives, which spring from two different cultural traditions, mesh? Does Orendel actually resemble in any way Aurvandill, or should questions of “Germanic origin” be put to bed? And are there any intertextual connections between this poem and other monuments of Medieval Literature?
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

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 Forgotten Plays: The Late Romances

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 recovered of true love.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The “Problem” Comedies

This module looks at two of Shakespeare’s darkest comedies (often described as “Problem Plays” and frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies): Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure. Half an adaptation of Chaucer’s tragic romance, and half a reworking of Homer’s Iliad, Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida presents both the lovers and the warriors with a mixture of biting satire, comic buffoonery, and genuine pathos. Likely never staged in Shakespeare’s lifetime, this comedy-history-tragedy has puzzled readers since its first appearance in print. In Measure for Measure, a duke’s attempt to clean up his city’s seedy night-life quickly leads to the attempted sexual blackmail of a nun by duke’s chief deputy. In the chaos of bed-swapping and (threatened) head-chopping that follows, the play narrowly avoids outright tragedy, but whether the final ending could be called “happy” has been debated for centuries. These may actually be the strangest two play Shakespeare ever wrote.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Shakespeare’s “Henriad”

This module looks at Shakespeare’s trilogy of coming-of-age history plays depicting one of England’s most popular medieval monarchs—King Henry V. Beginning with Henry IV, Part 1, we see the young Prince Hal change from wastrel, drunkard, and companion of highway robbers into the royal figure his war-torn country needs. After relapsing in Part 2, we finally see him 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, Henry finally learns what it means to “act” the part of a king in the ways that matter most.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Text, Translation, Film

Can Sir Gawain keep his honor without losing his head? This short classic of Middle English chivalric romance follows Gawain on a quest testing his heroism, social etiquette, sexual virtue, and existential sense of self. This course explores: first, the extraordinary history of the single, unique manuscript which preserves this poem (as it “slept” on a library shelf for 400 years, escaped destruction by fire, and was eventually rediscovered in the 19th century); second, the translations which brought this poem to a twentieth century readership – focusing in particular on J.R.R. Tolkien’s; and finally, the 2021 film by David Lowery.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

The Old Saxon Hêliand I

Old Saxon, the continental cousin to Old English, was the language spoken in Northern Germany from the ninth to the twelfth century. It is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Anglo-Saxon, so Old English students will easily be able to read and understand it. The language boasts a number of smaller texts, but the Hêliand, an epic poem of nearly 6,000 lines, remains its most prestigious literary monument. It tells the story of Jesus Christ (the “Hêliand,” meaning “Savior”) reimagined as a Saxon lord with a retinue of twelve thanes, and is comparable to the Old English Beowulf. In our Space module, we will read and discuss selections of this poem. Some familiarity with Old English is required.
Precepted by Isaac Schendel.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Is the Holy Grail a cup, a platter, or a stone? Where did it come from? Is it real? What does it mean to "achieve" the Grail? Is it only a Christian legend? Why has it remained popular and grown in significance over a thousand-year period of European literature? What does Monty Python have to do with the Grail? How did Indiana Jones get involved? What is the connection between the Grail and Tolkien’s legendarium? Where is the ring of Arthur the King? What Lord has such a treasure in his house?

We'll answer these questions and many more in this course, which will follow the evolution of the Grail from brief references in the Bible through Celtic fertility rituals and medieval romance to its varied presentations today. No prior knowledge is needed, and each student will determine their own reading load and selections.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

The Seven Deadly Stories

The Seven Deadly sins--lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride--may result in eternal damnation, but they also make jolly good stories. We'll take a look at one work of literature each class that explores, describes, deplores, warns against, or otherwise engages with one of these deadly sins, and we'll talk about whether we detect a universal moral impulse underneath the varied texts we read.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

The Women of Beowulf

Yes, there are indeed women in Beowulf. Vital and potent women in fact. From the valkyrie-esque figures to the weeping peace-weavers, a broad spectrum of women characters exists as both historical representation and imaginative mythology. Grendel's Mother is ferocious and masculine. Hildeburh laments the death of her brother and son before being carried off. Modthryth behaves like a sadistic queen. Wealhtheow is mindful of so much in her husband's hall. Freawaru seems destined for tragedy. And could the dragon be a female too? Maria Headley seems to think so. This module will explore this topic using dual-language editions of texts so we can see the original language alongside translations by J.R.R. Tolkien, Roy Liuzza, and Maria Headley.
Precepted by Chris Vaccaro.

Trees Are People Too (And They Probably Don't Want to Hug You)

This course examines novellas, stories, and myths that predated Tolkien's Ents in Lord of the Rings, ranging from Ovid's Metamorphoses to Ask and Embla of Norse myth, to Weird nineteenth- and twentieth-century works, such as George MacDonald's Phantastes and Algernon Blackwood's The Man Whom the Trees Loved. We'll explore why people ascribe human qualities to trees (and why they're often irascible). Through these myths and stories, we will reconsider both what it is to be a tree, and what it is to be human.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].