This course seeks to uncover and analyze strategies of difference in the pre-modern years of 1000-1550. Our modern categories of difference and conflict involve race, class and gender: what categories did medieval culture use to mark difference, and what can we learn from them? Starting in northern Europe with the warrior Beowulf's battle against Grendel the monster, moving to Spain and its geopolitics of Convivencia, continuing to the Middle East with the Crusades, and ending in the fantastic maps and travel writings and images of the kingdoms of India, Africa, and China we will study categories of ethnicity, dynastic loyalty, religion, and language, among others, as they constructed difference in medieval textual and visual culture. At stake in this class is a critical understanding of the historical construction of difference, and the lessons it can give us for understanding strategies of difference in our own culture.
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