England in Myth & Stone—2016

Course Description

What do Stonehenge, Merlin, pagan goddess worship, ancient astronomy, giants, the Isle of Avalon, Joseph of Arimathea, King Arthur and the Holy Grail have in common? They are all part of the mythic landscape of England.

The ancient megalithic and Arthurian sites of Britain are among the most awe-inspiring in the world, and they continue to inform the lived experience of English folk and pilgrims from all over the world. For some, the great stone circles are exotic irruptions of a remote past in grazing fields and beside motorways; for others, sacred sites are touchstones of their values and spirituality. Our approach in this course will be a three-way intersection of (1) ancient geography and earthworks, (2) mythic tales, and (3) our own intersubjective experiencing at the sites themselves. Our guiding question will be: 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 we will visit and course themes 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, and the rainbow bridge between myth, legend, and history). 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: 10 students.

Required Texts

  • Paul Devereux, Symbolic Landscapes
  • Geoffrey Ashe, Mythology of the British Isles
  • An approved Dictionary of Symbolism
  • Course anthology
  • 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
  • Substantial final project based on readings and field work
  • Detailed trip journal
  • Final project, T.B.D.—probably either:
  • Art project with process notes
  • 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.

Dates and Cost

Approximate Travel Dates: 5/23/16–6/9/16.

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.