ENG374H1S - L0101

Topics in Pre-1800 British Literature: Medieval English Travel Writing


Tuesday 11 am -1 pm

Thursday 12 pm - 1 pm


S. Sobecki

Brief Description of Course

Despite the lack of cars, trains, and planes, the medieval world felt, in many ways, no smaller than ours: adventurers, crusaders, fishermen, mercenaries, penitents, pilgrims, spies, students, traders, all travelled widely throughout and beyond Europe in the Middle Ages. Medieval people were fascinated with the worlds that lay beyond their town or country, beyond Europe, beyond Jerusalem, beyond the seas, beyond the known. 

This course will concentrate on a range of travel accounts and voyage tales, from the Asian wonders of John Mandeville’s Travels to the role of King Richard Coeur-de-Lion during the Crusades. In addition to less familiar texts, such as the graphic war accounts of John Page’s Siege of Rouen and John Kay’s Siege of Rhodes, we will work with new editions of the oriental romance Floris and Blancheflour, the pilgrim guidebook The Stacions of Rome, Chaucer’s mysterious account of magic in The Squire's Tale, and King Arthur’s conquests in the Alliterative Morte Arthure

In our readings we will encounter imagined places (Australia, Brazil) and real ones, such as the end of the world. Our weekly themes will follow our textbook, which was specifically written for this course: 'Places, Real and Imagined', 'Maps the Organisation of Space', 'Encounters', 'Languages and Codes', 'Trade and Exchange', and 'Politics and Diplomacy'.

Required Reading(s)

Anthony Bale and Sebastian Sobecki, ed., Medieval English Travel: A Critical Anthology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019; paperback 2021). ISBN: 9780192848604

First Three Authors/Texts

Saewulf’s Voyage to Jerusalem; Ranulph Higden’s Polychronicon; Mandeville’s Travels.

Method of Evaluation

  • Attendance and participation (10%)
  • “Adopt-a-map” research assignment (20%)
  • Short essay (20%)
  • Rome pilgrim project (20%)
  • Final essay (30%)