Fall 2022 - ENGL 209 D100

Race, Borders, Empire (3)

Class Number: 4506

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    AQ 3149, Burnaby

    We 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    AQ 3149, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    12 units or one 100-division English course.



Examines how literature and language work to reflect, perform, complicate, and critique constructions of race, ethnicity, and national and diasporic identities and spaces. May draw from post-colonial approaches, critical race theory, and Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies. May be further organized by historical period, genre, or critical approach. Breadth-Humanities.


Mapping Borders and Making Race in the Middle Ages

Ask most people about the period we now call the Middle Ages—the long, complicated span from the 5th century to the 15th—and you won’t hear a lot about racial diversity, religious heterodoxy, colonization, or borderland hybridity. Knights fighting for God, crown, and honour? Check. Maidens in Towers and hoard-guarding dragons? Check. Bearded alchemists, mead-soused paladins, and tonsured monks? Check, check, and double check. But a complicated understanding of racial and cultural identity? A delicate detente between religious orthodoxy and ecumenical heterodoxy? A filigreed and shifting world map that placed England not at the centre of the known world but right up against the edge? These things don’t often make it into our cultural conceptions of the medieval period.

This course will strive to push back again prevailing understandings of the Middle Ages as a White, Christian, nationalist, hetero-normative monolith. We will engage with several canonical Old English, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English texts; however we will seek to explore, contextualize, and decenter them to develop a more nuanced understanding of medieval literature and the medieval world. In so doing, we will also consider the pre-modern roots of some of our most pressing cultural and social issues, and we will address how the familiar cultural fiction of the Middle Ages continues to (mis)inform and to fuel contemporary struggles around race, religion, national identity, and colonialism.


Of studie tak ye moost cure and moost heede.
Noght o word speke ye moore than ys neede,
And that is seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence;
Sownynge in moral vertu is yowr speche,
And gladly wol ye lerne and gladly teche.


  • Essay 1 (3-4 pp.) 20%
  • Essay 2 (5-6 pp.) 25%
  • Middle English Dictionary Assignment (2 pp.) 15%
  • Final Exam 25%
  • Tutorial Participation 15%



Beowulf. Ed. and trans. Seamus Heaney. W. W. Norton & Company (2001).
ISBN: 9780393320978

Marie de France. The Lais of Marie de France. Ed. and trans. Claire Waters. Broadview (2018).
ISBN: 9781554810826

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ed. and trans. James Winny. Broadview (1992).
ISBN: 9780921149927

Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales, 2nd ed. Ed. Boenig and Taylor. Broadview (2012).
ISBN: 9781554811069

John Mandeville. The Book of John Mandeville. Ed. and trans. Iain Higgins. Hackett (2011).
ISBN: 9780872209350

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html