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The Middle Ages permeate our 21st-century lives. The period between the years 500 and 1500 C.E. appear in our entertainment, in our art, in our politics, and in our current events—in ways obvious and in ways subtle and easy to miss.
In this course, author and Wellesley College professor of English Cord Whitaker will explore the legacies of the Middle Ages that inhere in our everyday lives. Participants will consider both the historical Middle Ages as well as medievalism—or the deployment of modern ideas about the Middle Ages. We will devote each of four meetings to 1) the Middle Ages in popular culture; 2) the Middle Ages in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially in the arts and culture associated with the Harlem Renaissance; 3) far-right and anti-Semitic politics of the twentieth and 21st centuries, including Nazism and the alt-right; 4) and contemporary black-white racial politics, from U.S. slavery to current debates over policing.
Course materials will include video clips, such as from the popular Harry Potter film adaptations and HBO’s television drama Game of Thrones; readings from short stories such as W.E.B. Du Bois’s “The Princess Steel” (c. 1908) and popular novels such as Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1820) and Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun (1928); readings from historical scholarly writing such as W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and Alain Locke’s “The New Negro” (1925); and readings from contemporary scholarship on the medieval history of race, on deployments of the Middle Ages in modernity, and on medievalism’s place in politics.
The Middle Ages are all around us. After this course, participants will be better equipped to see their legacy.
Programs taking place online:An access link will be emailed to you after purchase.
Programs taking place in our NYC facilities:Please read our safety guidelines before visiting our building.
Programs taking place online and in our NYC facilities:Please select which experience you wish to participate in when registering. Online participants will be emailed an access link after purchase. In-person participants should read our safety guidelines before attending the program.
Cord J. Whitaker works on the history of race and its intimate relationship with medieval rhetorical theory …
Cord J. Whitaker works on the history of race and its intimate relationship with medieval rhetorical theory. He is also an expert in the roles of popular and scholarly medievalisms in nineteenth-through 21st-century racial politics. His Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) argues for the close relationship between race, medieval rhetoric, and modern politics. He is currently writing on African-American writers’ radical uses of medievalism and the Middle Ages in the Harlem Renaissance. Whitaker is also the editor of the award-winning postmedieval special issue ‘Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages’ (2015). He has received fellowships and grants from the Institute for Advanced Study, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other organizations. He is Associate Professor of English at Wellesley College and can be reached at cordwhitaker.com.
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