Mapping the Middle Ages

a Discovery Core Experience

This course may be taken either as BCORE 120 (Arts & Humanities) or as BCORE 1198 (Social Sciences)

About This Course

The Middle Ages are endlessly exploited in fantasy literature and popular culture. From The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones, it seems people can’t get enough of runic wizards, beefy warriors and evil queens. But what were these times really like? How can the historical reality speak to us in way that is just as urgent and important as these fantasies? And what parts of the world and what people in these worlds do medieval fantasies ignore?

Sometimes the best way to understand our own times is to take a tour of the past. This class is a guided tour of the era from 700 to 1400 CE, ranging from Europe to the Islamic and Mongol Empires, and East Asia. From the court of Harun al Rashid to the armies of Genghis Khan, from Eleanor of Aquitaine’s Court of Love to the massacres of the Crusades, from the Black Death and peasant uprisings to the first strides toward human rights, will piece together the map of the medieval world, and listen to the voices of the men and women caught up in its drama.

How did medieval people construct meaning in their world? What intellectual leaps did they take? How were some people suppressed, demonized and attacked? How did diverse communities learn to cooperate and do their solutions have anything to teach us as we construct the map of our own troubled times?

The course is an integrated learning experience, encompassing historical, cultural and artistic exploration, exploring what binds us together in one human family and how different traditions and historical experiences shape us

Professor Louise Spiegler (She/Her/Hers)

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

About Professor Spiegler

  • B.A. International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  • M.A. Creative Writing and English Literature, Temple University


I see stories —those we read and listen to, as well as those we tell ourselves — as a powerful way of becoming. I believe that storytelling provides a unique possibility of creating community and deepening our understanding of ourselves and others.

Professor Spiegler