Monday, April 17, 2006
The archipelago of England
The title of this blog entry is the working title for my next research project: an examination of how medieval England was haunted by the multicultural, polyglot archipelago from which it emerged -- a British Isles that England supposedly superceded and assimilated. I'm interested in how "England" began to pass itself off as a synonym for "Britain," and what this substitution-which-is-not-an-equivalence ineptly obscured.
I'm teaching a graduate seminar on the topic next autumn. The list of primary works looks something like this:
Bede, Life of St Cuthbert
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
The Life of Saint Columba
Marie de France, Lais
Asser's Life of King Alfred
Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul
Gerald of Wales, Journey Through Wales
Middle English Breton Lays
Wace and Layamon
Chaucer, "Wife of Bath's Tale" "Franklin's Tale"
That's quite a bit, and probably needs to be pared, considering I hope we'll do a fair amount of reading in secondary sources (especially postcolonial-inflected medieval studies, but also in history and theory more generally). I place it here, though, because I'm interested in hearing other people's thoughts on what such a course might include -- primary texts and criticism both.