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England: Life in a Medieval City: Literature and Culture in York, 700-1500

May 15-June 18, 2017

In the Middle Ages, York was one of England’s most important cities, second only to London in size and importance. York served as a center of Roman administration in Britain, then the capital of a Saxon kingdom, then a base for Viking incursion and se lement of England, and ultimately a vibrant economic hub for not only medieval England but the North Atlantic world. Today, York is a compact city that, unlike London, retains much of its medieval character, including its original stone city walls. York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, retaining its spectacular medieval stained glass windows, and the streets that surround the minster still have buildings left behind by the prosperous merchants of the later Middle Ages, including private houses and a guildhall from which they administered the wool trade that made York rich. The Jorvik Museum – founded when excavations for a shopping mall discovered the remains of a ninth-century Norse village – is devoted to recreating life in Viking York, along with all its sights and smells, and Clifford’s Tower, part of a castle built by William the Conqueror, bridges the early and later medieval periods. Apart from the glories of York itself, the city is ideally located as a base for trips to a variety of historically significant sites in the north of England.

During this 25-day, 4-Credit program you will:

  • Live in the contexts—Viking, English, and Roman—of the texts we study
  • Explore medieval houses, castles, and cathedrals
  • Wander the streets of a walled medieval city
  • Encounter the landscapes and cultures of early British literature


Estimated Cost of Participation

Apply. Please note: A 2.5 GPA and essay are required to apply. Students will register for the ENGL 3163 - Life in a Medieval City: Literature and Culture in York, 700-1500 4-credit course that fulfills the Communication, Language, Literature, and Philosophy (HUM) general education requirement.

Important Note: Enrollment on this program is limited to 18 students. Admission is granted on a rolling basis and applications are reviewed in the order that they become complete. Some programs have a history of filling to capacity prior to the application deadline, therefore applying early is recommended.

Faculty Profiles:

Janet Schrunk Ericksen is an Anglo-Saxonist, meaning that her expertise lies in the literature of England from about 600-1500, although her research and teaching also include Old Norse literature (especially the sagas of medieval Iceland) and the history of the English language as well as modern grammar. One of the things that convinced her to pursue a PhD in medieval British literature was studying Old English and visiting medieval sites in northern England during her undergraduate junior year abroad.

David Ericksen’s primary field is early American literature, which he regularly teaches, and he also both produces and teaches fiction and film. He recently wrote and narrated a documentary for PBS on volunteer firefighters, and he writes historical as well as contemporary fiction. He has taught courses both at Morris and in York on popular fiction — and he studied abroad in England as an undergraduate, too.

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Program health and safety information is available at GO SAFE.