There have been college courses devoted to Game of Thrones before, and all of them have looked at the series though a different lens. A course at UC Berkeley takes a Film Studies approach, Northern Illinois University’s class ropes in the history of cable technology, and a course at the University of Virginia considers the literary value of the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series as compared to the show’s adaptation.
A new course at the University of British Columbia (UBC) will use it to look at modern perceptions of medieval times. Entitled Our Modern Medieval: The Song of Ice and Fire as contemporary Medievalism, the course requires a lot of work—students must read every book in the Song of Ice and Fire series and watch all five seasons of the show—but it sounds like it’ll be rewarding for those who manage. Here’s a description from the course outline:
Throughout the history of western culture, the medieval has been continually reimagined to reflect, as in a mirror darkly, the fears and desires of the contemporary moment.
For the writers of the Renaissance, the medieval was the abject other from which the rebirth of classical learning had liberated them, while the Victorians found in the Middle Ages archetypical structures of Empire and class-orientated chivalry.
This course seeks to examine the role of the medieval in the popular consciousness of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
According to Professor Robert Rouse, depictions of medieval times like those found in Martin’s novels “have largely supplanting any real notion of the European Middle Ages.” It sounds like he’s implying that there weren’t actually dragons around back then, which isn’t what I heard, but he’s the professor. More seriously, it sounds as though Rouse has thought this course out well, and I know I’d be interested in finding out how perceptions of medieval times have changed throughout history.
For students who aren’t familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire, though, this looks like a tall mountain to climb. The University of Virginia course only required students to read A Game of Thrones, but the UBC one requires them to plow through every novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series. That’s a whole lotta book. If they’re already fans, it’s not a problem, but for the rest there will probably be a lot of late nights immersed in Westeros (not that that wouldn’t be fun). Ah, well—at least they’ll be ready when The Winds of Winter comes out.