English 240 - Spring, 2024

Medieval Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Waters, Claire
CRN: 56636
Time: W 12:10-3:00pm
Location: 120 Voorhies


ENL 240: The Literature of Pilgrimage

This class will examine the early history and later legacies of the literature of pilgrimage, looking primarily at examples from medieval England but also at some early-Christian European and cross-cultural accounts, with an eye to the continuing importance of both religious and secular pilgrimage in modern cultures.

Pilgrimage literature has strong ties to allegory, due to the idea of human life as a pilgrimage (the strand that gives rise to Pilgrim's Progress), but also to travel literature, where medieval world maps (mappaemundi) will help orient our approach. We will look at both of these threads as well as at the places, people, and things (particularly saints' relics) that become the destinations for pilgrimage. We will also consider the role of pilgrimage in shaping three major works of Middle English literature: William Langland's Piers Plowman, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and The Book of Margery Kempe (which reports on her pilgrimage experiences); we will read selections from all three. We will also consider works such as The Pilgrimage of The Life of Man that were highly influential in the Middle Ages but are little known today, travel literature such as Mandeville's Travels or the Travels of Ibn Battuta, and medieval romances featuring pilgrimage, such as Undo Your Door.

This seminar is designed to welcome non-specialists as well as specialists in the period and we will make a pilgrimage of our own to visit medieval manuscripts at Berkeley's Bancroft Library.