Graduate Courses

Spring 2024

English (ENL) 240: The Literature of Pilgrimage

This class will examine the early history and later legacies of the literature of pilgrimage, looking primarily at examples from medieval England but also at some early-Christian European and cross-cultural accounts, with an eye to the continuing importance of both religious and secular pilgrimage in modern cultures.

Pilgrimage literature has strong ties to allegory, due to the idea of human life as a pilgrimage (the strand that gives rise to Pilgrim's Progress), but also to travel literature, where medieval world maps (mappaemundi) will help orient our approach. We will look at both of these threads as well as at the places, people, and things (particularly saints' relics) that become the destinations for pilgrimage. We will also consider the role of pilgrimage in shaping three major works of Middle English literature: William Langland's Piers Plowman, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and The Book of Margery Kempe (which reports on her pilgrimage experiences); we will read selections from all three. We will also consider works such as The Pilgrimage of The Life of Man that were highly influential in the Middle Ages but are little known today, travel literature such as Mandeville's Travels or the Travels of Ibn Battuta, and medieval romances featuring pilgrimage, such as Undo Your Door.

This seminar is designed to welcome non-specialists as well as specialists in the period and we will make a pilgrimage of our own to visit medieval manuscripts at Berkeley's Bancroft Library.


French (FRE) 202: Insiders and Outsiders in 17th Century France

As represented in accounts of court life, politics, and the arts, seventeenth century France has long been considered the ultimate insider culture. Power, influence, and relevance derived from proximity to the monarch and was also performatively manifested by physical proximity in seating, dance, riding, and lodging. An aristocrat’s ultimate punishment was exile.  Consequently, seventeenth-century French studies has often focused on ways literature reflects the era’s increasingly consolidated centers of power. This quarter, however, we are going to look outward, at figures on the century’s margins. While scholarship of the French eighteenth century, and the English Renaissance and so-called “long Eighteenth Century,” has long been attentive to the widening frame of reference occasioned by exploration, mercantile trade, and colonial entanglements, in the French-language context it is only in very recent years that scholars have explored such global dimensions in the “Age Classique.” We will read how works of literature imagine other cultures and places, drawing on both historical documents and contemporary works of scholarship.


Spanish and Portuguese (SPA) 244: Spanish Literature Studies-The Five Senses and the Early Modern Spanish Atlantic     

Drawing on the notion that sensory experience and perception are historically and culturally contingent, this seminar explores the role of the five senses in the cultural dynamics of the early modern Spanish Atlantic.  Focusing on different themes —religiosity, urban life, racialization, natural history, and medicine—, we will interrogate how the senses shaped everyday life in Spain and the Spanish Americas. Among the questions we will tackle are: How did odors, textures and sounds form notions of class, gender and race in the urban centers of the Spanish empire? How did early colonizers and explorers understand the natural world of the Americas through smelling, tasting and touching? How did ecclesiastical and secular authorities discipline sensorial regimes? We will approach cultural objects through the sensorium they evoke and represent, engaging with theoretical and historical scholarship.

In keeping with the seminar’s goal to engage the five senses as vehicles of inquiry, we will combine the study of cultural artifacts—art, sculpture, music, fragrances, and food—with critical readings of literary works. Students will also engage with sensorial archeology to examine the methodological challenges and possibilities of sensory studies when studying literature and culture. By the end of this course, you will be able to 1) critically evaluate theoretical literature, as well as early modern historical and literary texts; 2) identify major trends, authors, methodologies and works of early modern Sensory Studies, and 3) develop a critical understanding of the interdisciplinary field of Sensory Studies and its contributions to Cultural and Literary Studies