Currently, we are only featuring courses in the northeast. We are happy to share other courses; please email CEMS@columbia.edu with information.
New York University
English 2270.003: Visions and Travels in Medieval Literature: Exploring Space and Time
Professor: Hal Momma
Monday 11:00 AM – 1:45 PM
This course explores new approaches to time and space in medieval literature by reading vision and travel literature side by side. Today these two are generally designated to two separate genres, but they share a common narrative structure: the protagonist leaves home, visits a strange place, observes marvelous phenomena, and comes home to tell of their experience. In fact, the close connection between the two was apparently understood by classical and medieval authors, for visions and travels often appear side by side in their wok (e.g. Scipio’s Dream, Divine Comedy); in some genres, the coupling of the two has even become a convention (e.g. epic/heroic poetry and, to a certain degree, hagiography).
Vision and travel narratives also share an underlying theme: namely, exploration (and at times subversion) of time and space. A visionary—like, say, Dante—may not only visit different parts of the globe (and beyond) but also hear prophesies. A traveler—like, say, Alexander or Mandeville—may not just boldly go where no European man had gone but encounter “primitive” people untouched by “civilization” or have a glimpse of a passage to paradise preserved in the prelapsarian state.
The goal of this course is for us to develop, collectively, new insights into medieval literature, while, individually, developing ideas for our own respective research projects. It will have several thematic threads, including monsters, a common accoutrement for both genres (e.g., the Beowulf Manuscript); the notion of going there and back (the Gawain/Pearl poet, Sir Orfeo); mappae mundi (Asia, Africa, and the New World); anabasis/kayabasis (hell, paradise, purgatory); time and temporality; race before race
English 315: Intro to Old English Language and Literature: Tolkien’s Origin (Undergraduate)
Professor: Hal Momma
Wednesday 4:55 PM – 7:40 PM
This course has two purposes: first, to introduce students to Old English language and literature and also to the culture and history in which this language thrived; second, to use Old English as an entry point to explore J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, both academic and creative. It will be divided into three parts. In the first part, we will go over basic Old English grammar and read, with the help of translations, passages from Old English prose texts.
Since Old English is noticeably different from its descendant Modern English, it will be approached almost as a(n obsolete) foreign language, like Latin: students will be encouraged to memorize basic grammatical endings and core vocabulary (but not as intensely as Tolkien did). We will use various teaching materials including Peter Baker’s standard textbook Introduction to Old English. We will also refer to Henry Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer and Anglo-Saxon Reader, two textbooks that Tolkien used to study Old English as a student at Oxford.
In the second part, we will read shorter Old English poems while studying more advanced grammar, syntax, and versification. We will examine Tolkien’s writing related to these poetic texts: for instance, we will read The Battle of Maldon, a poem about the English army’s defeat by the Viking invaders, side by side with Tolkien’s The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, which is a fascinating dramatization of the poem; we will read some of the Advent Lyrics and discuss Tolkien’s use of one of the lyrics in The Lord of the Rings (and elsewhere: e.g., Fall of Gondolin).
In the last section we will read excerpts from Beowulf together with Tolkien’s translation of the poem, his well-known lecture entitled “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” and excerpts from The Hobbit.
Throughout the semester, we will explore Old English vocabulary and especially poetic words, since Tolkien often used such words in his creative writing. We will also consider Tolkien’s work in the light of feminist criticism and critical race theory, since he has received some criticism in recent years on these fronts.
English 150/500: Old English I
Professor: Emily Thornbury
Tuesday/Thursday 11:35 AM – 12:50 PM
An introduction to the language, literature, and culture of earliest England. A selection of prose and verse, including riddles, heroic poetry, meditations on loss, a dream vision, and excerpts from Beowulf, which are read in the original Old English.
ER&M 420: Indigenous Thought and Anticolonial Theory
Professor: Tarren Andrews
Wednesday 9:25 AM – 11:15 AM
This seminar provides a comprehensive overview of the theoretical landscape of Native American and Indigenous Studies. The readings approach NAIS from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. We explore the major debates, methodologies, and concerns that ground the field, and provide critical context for ethical engagement with Indigenous communities and knowledges. Students learn the disciplinary standards for the evaluation of scholarly sources based on criteria derived from the most outstanding recent scholarship in the field. Students are required to read, write, and think extensively and critically about a variety of issues that are of concern for global Indigenous communities. Mastery of these skills is honed through in-depth discussion and weekly writing assignments.
Professor: Emily Thornbury