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Course description for a "Game of Thrones" medieval studies class


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A friend just forwarded a course description for a class to be offered by the French Department of a major U.S. university next semester:

In this course we will use medieval literary texts and studies of medieval Europe as lenses through which to explore the narrative and representational logics that organize Game of Thrones. We will explore the personal ambition and dynastic succession, class structures, feuds, love affairs, and warfare. We will also be attentive to the racializing logics of the series and depictions of gender, sexuality, and social hierarchies. This course also offers an introduction to fan fiction and you will work in teams to write a fan fiction that develops, revises, or recreates some aspect of Game of Thrones. The course is taught in English and all assignments are in English.

I assumed the Lancelot and Guinevere story around the Joyous Gard / Tower of Joy will be part of the course. What else from medieval literature and history is likely to be part of the curriculum? How do you think GRRM would like the assignment to generate fan fiction?

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21 minutes ago, SaffronLady said:

Well, this one is easy. He won't.

That was my immediate response, too. 

If it's done well, I suppose it requires students to make an effort to dig into the symbolism and world-building. But I know the author does not approve of that whole approach to story-telling.

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2 minutes ago, Seams said:

That was my immediate response, too. 

If it's done well, I suppose it requires students to make an effort to dig into the symbolism and world-building. But I know the author does not approve of that whole approach to story-telling.

As a ASOIAF fanfic ideas machine myself, I admit the more I learn about the story, the more difficult it is to write ASOIAF fanfics.

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Maybe I'm just in a curmudgeonly mood tonight, but this looks to me like a textbook example (if you'll pardon the expression) of what's wrong with colleges and universities today. If they were going to use ASOIAF as a gateway to studying actual medieval history, that might make sense to me. But in this case, they're doing the opposite: they're going to use real history as a way to "explore" a work of fantasy.

The fact that the blurb specifically mentions race, sex, and "social hierarchies" makes me wonder if there's a political or ideological agenda here. Is some professor using a popular work of fiction as a device to attract students into what will actually be a session of political indoctrination?

Also, I see that this course is being offered by a French Department, but all the work will be done in English. How does that make sense?

Seams, would you mind telling us what university this is? A college catalog is obviously public information; there's no need for confidentiality.

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15 hours ago, Aebram said:

Maybe I'm just in a curmudgeonly mood tonight

You probably are, you know! This course could be a bit of intellectual sugar to tempt the students in, warm up their analytical and writing skills, express their values etc. And to use european medieval culture for a lens, they will first have to learn some, so that's all good.

At first I thought they were mad for introducing asoiaf (think of the reading time!), but I guess they meant the tv series, which many students could have seen already.

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12 minutes ago, Springwatch said:

At first I thought they were mad for introducing asoiaf (think of the reading time!), but I guess they meant the tv series, which many students could have seen already.

So, the course professor wants a bad fan fic on a bad fan fic, then?   :dunce:    Plus, this French Department class is in English and the writing assignment is in English.  Um....yeah.    :blink:

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28 minutes ago, LongRider said:

So, the course professor wants a bad fan fic on a bad fan fic, then?   :dunce:    Plus, this French Department class is in English and the writing assignment is in English.  Um....yeah.    :blink:

Um... yeah indeed. A heavy dose of sugar over who knows how much intellectual fibre. It might be ok. Anyway, good students will do something good with it.

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House Bolton : the cruelty of the Assyrians that used to flay alive their enemies and expose their skin on the walls.

Parallel between Elizabeth Bathory and Ramsay Bolton. 

Daeron I Targaryen : De Bello Gallico - Conquest of Dorne.

House Targaryen : the three head of the dragons related to trinity and unity, the concept of the Christian God.

Parallel between Aegon and the prophet Muhammad, both they conquered for visions in their dream. 

Incest habit of House Targaryen is related to the customs of Egyptian rulers to marry each other because they believed to be godly men. 

Then there is Longshanks and Tywin

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I don't think Asoiaf is totally based on history, there are magic is actually important, it's fantasy world after all, the plot is totally based on the prophecy of the prince that was promised, that something related to the prophecy in the Bible and Quran about the second return of Jesus to destroy evil. 

The red dragon with three heads is related to a Christian concept. 

Targaryens related to medieval kings, it's obvious Maegor is based on Henry VIII, he was obsessed to have an heir too, but Targaryens are related to the Egyptians monarchs for the incestuous habit. 

Maybe there is a parallel between Aegon and Muhammad for the visions in their dream, instead Meria Martell is based on Catherine the great and Daeron on Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. It's difficult to relate the other Targaryen kings to historical events 

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He could start from geography, Westeros seems the Great Britain, the symbol of the Western world, where there was not  not slavery during the Middle Ages, Essos seems Turkey, the East, where there was slavery. 

The association of the Dothraki to the mongols is obvious, the Rhoynars are the Greek, Old Ghis is Carthago, the Freehold is the Roman Empire. 

The Greek poleis were indipendent cities, in Sparta women had lots of liberties, this reminds me of Nymeria, actually the 300 Spartans are the 300 dragons that wiped out Rhoynar civilization. 

About sexuality I think the Faith of 7 plays the major role, first of all the religious orders : the Silent sisters, similar to the nuns, in the current history the Faith Militant uses same tools the Inquisition used to have confessions : torture.

The Saint Inquisition used to use torture to eliminate enemies, that's what Cersei tried to do with Maergery, however the Faith Militant took from the Blue Bard fake confessions," the torture as useful tool to obtain confessions" is a classic topic. 

Then the other gender things, I don't know if there are such elements in Asoiaf, there are things as the whipping boy and the first night law, clearly medieval stuff, then homosexuality is clearly not tolerated in Westeros except for Dorne, there is the example of Rhaena that enjoyed "washing" her favorite female Companions. 

In the Middle Ages some gruesome methods of executions were applied to people accused of sodomy

Edited by KingAerys_II
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On 9/27/2023 at 11:05 PM, Aebram said:

 

The fact that the blurb specifically mentions race, sex, and "social hierarchies" makes me wonder if there's a political or ideological agenda here. Is some professor using a popular work of fiction as a device to attract students into what will actually be a session of political indoctrination?

 

Political indoctrination? You mean like forbidding critical race theory to be taught in schools? Or do you mean forbidding trans students their pronouns? 
Some of your other points make a bit of sense but this paragraph just raises all the red flags.

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7 hours ago, James Steller said:

Political indoctrination? You mean like forbidding critical race theory to be taught in schools? Or do you mean forbidding trans students their pronouns? 
Some of your other points make a bit of sense but this paragraph just raises all the red flags.

Red flags of what? 

Edited by KingAerys_II
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8 hours ago, James Steller said:

Political indoctrination? You mean like forbidding critical race theory to be taught in schools? Or do you mean forbidding trans students their pronouns? 
Some of your other points make a bit of sense but this paragraph just raises all the red flags.

However virtuous you are, you shouldn't be putting words into someone else's mouth. And I'm a bit uncomfortable with talk of red flags - it has a favour close to bullying.

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On 9/28/2023 at 4:05 AM, Aebram said:

race, sex, and "social hierarchies" makes me wonder if there's a political or ideological agenda here. Is some professor using a popular work of fiction as a device to attract students into what will actually be a session of political indoctrination?

I really doubt it. I think they are just trying to attract students by choosing topics that are being discussed currently. It is a course based on history and fantasy, not politics... 'Social hierarchies' i.e. the feudal pyramid is a big topic in the books and will of course feature in the medieval texts. So is sex. Admittedly I don't think race is such a big topic because there are not so many characters who aren't white. But I think logistically speaking it would be impossible for a professor to try and run something like this as a 'political indoctrination session'. That isn't how universities work - one person doesn't get to make all the decisions like that. Also, you are reading/watching fixed texts and then writing about them. I don't see much room for indoctrination there unless the professor is dictating what you write somehow. It is a course with a strong creative writing element. Fantasy. It would be up to the students.

Edited by Craving Peaches
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9 hours ago, Craving Peaches said:

I really doubt it. I think they are just trying to attract students by choosing topics that are being discussed currently. It is a course based on history and fantasy, not politics... 'Social hierarchies' i.e. the feudal pyramid is a big topic in the books and will of course feature in the medieval texts. So is sex. Admittedly I don't think race is such a big topic because there are not so many characters who aren't white. But I think logistically speaking it would be impossible for a professor to try and run something like this as a 'political indoctrination session'. That isn't how universities work - one person doesn't get to make all the decisions like that. Also, you are reading/watching fixed texts and then writing about them. I don't see much room for indoctrination there unless the professor is dictating what you write somehow. It is a course with a strong creative writing element. Fantasy. It would be up to the students.

There is not so much to say, Westeros is based on medieval England, where people were mostly Europeans, maybe the Rhoynars are different because they are similar to the Greeks, in the Greek poleis homosexuality was more accepted, the same for the Roman Empire 

Edited by KingAerys_II
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Important lgbt characters are : the first Rhaena, Daenerys, Daeron son of Aegon V, Satin, Renly, Loras, Nymeria Sand, the Fowler twins, Cersei. I don't know how to relate these characters to history,anyway, it's very difficult

Edited by KingAerys_II
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