England in Myth & Stone—2015

Course Description: This Spring course abroad (we depart in May, after graduation) combines scholarly field research with the spirit of a pilgrimage. The ancient sites of Britain, including Stonehenge and the Isle of Avalon (modern Glastonbury), are among the most awe inspiring and studied in the world. They are also a significant part of the lived experience of the contemporary local culture. Many regard the great stone circles and ditch-and-bank earthworks as exotic irruptions of the past into the modern landscape. For others, one or several sacred sites form the center of their spiritual life. In Glastonbury it is as commonly held true that the Holy Grail flows into the lovely Chalice Well Garden on Chilkwell Street as that the Holy Grail and Arthur and Guinevere and the round table are figments of legend. The question of this course is not which view is correct, but rather how are land, myth, and identity woven together? Looked into earnestly, as we will do, the ancient past becomes a mirror in which we find ourselves.
    Sites and themes we will visit include: London (images produced by myth-consciousness, at the British Museum); Stonehenge and Avebury (landscape, stars and underworld as living continuum); St. Michael’s Mount (giants); Tintagel (birthplace of King Arthur); Glastonbury, the ancient Isle of Avalon (King Arthur’s grave, the Grail, Chalice Well, Cadbury Castle, Joseph of Arimathea’s founding of the first Christian church in Europe, Gog and Magog, Glastonbury Tor). Students will read a variety of critical models for interpreting the ancient world, keep a daily journal of impressions and thought experiments, and complete a substantial final project and process essay upon returning from England.
    Prerequisite: permission of the instructor (Mark Vecchio).
    Credits: 3. Enrollment cap: 12 students.

    Concentrations this course fits in: Art History; Cultural Studies; European Studies; Gender Studies; History; Literary Studies; Philosophy, Religion, and Theory; Psychology.

    Required Texts: Paul Devereux, Symbolic Landscapes; Geoffrey Ashe, Mythology of the British Isles; an approved Dictionary of Symbolism; course anthology (download anthology PDF here). All students are required to watch the John Boorman film, Excalibur, within two weeks of departure for England (regardless of how many times they’ve seen it before).

    Academic Requirements: active participation on the trip; a substantial final project based on readings and field work; a detailed trip journal; substantial process paper (A.K.A. “inquiry log”) based on the journal. The journal will be turned in for review the first morning in Glastonbury, and the project + process paper will be due no later than June 21st.

    Approximate Travel Dates: 5/25/15–6/11/15.

    Cost: The tuition of $3,995 covers round-trip airfare, all accommodations, one meal per day (breakfast), travel by van outside London, and all course-related tours and lectures; it does not include meals after breakfast ($40–50/day), books ($50–75), laundrettes (coins), tube fare in London, or spending money.