Spring 2021

Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

Listed in: English, as ENGL-330  |  European Studies, as EUST-330


Ingrid L. Nelson (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to ENGL and EUST majors.


Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Writing


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021