I’ve taught courses on medieval and early modern literature at California State University, Dominguez Hills, UCLA, and Harvard.
Some recent courses include:
Chaucer (Cal State Dominguez Hills, Fall 2022)
A pandemic that wouldn’t seem to end, shifting gender roles, popular uprisings, growing awareness of the gap between the rich and the poor, and crumbling structures of authority. Sound familiar? While these terms could easily describe twenty-first-century America, they equally apply to England in the late fourteenth century, when Geoffrey Chaucer was writing his masterpiece, the Canterbury Tales. In this course, students read the Canterbury Tales, exploring how Chaucer engages with the social and political crises of his time. We will consider how Chaucer’s literary innovations––his experimentation with genre, rhyme and meter, style, and the English language itself––shaped his treatment of issues surrounding class, religious identity, gender, and sexuality.
Demonizing Others: Race in Medieval Literature (UCLA, Spring 2022)
Demons, angels, monsters, giants, and fairies: these were some of the figures that medieval authors imagined, as they tried to understand what we now call “race” or “ethnicity.” In this course, students explore how authors writing from within the medieval English literary tradition understood their relationship to “others,” or groups marginalized by the dominant culture. By tracing these figures in works from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to John Mandeville’s fifteenth-century travel narrative, The Book of Marvels and Travels, students explore ideas of race and ethnicity in the Middle Ages. How do medieval authors associate fear or loathing with otherness? On the other hand, how might these same authors also imagine monstrous others as sources of fascination, desire, or even uncanny similarity?
Fantasies of the Past (UCLA, Spring 2022)
What did J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have in common? These acclaimed fantasy writers were also medievalists, centered at the University of Oxford during the 1930s and ‘40s. Taking this apparently unlikely juncture between fantasy writing and medieval literature as our starting point, we’ll read works of fiction and literary criticism by Tolkien and Lewis, alongside the medieval texts which inspired them. How and why do members of this foundational group re-imagine the western Middle Ages in works of fantasy fiction? As we seek to answer this question, we’ll explore issues surrounding the relationship between fiction, fantasy, and belief.