This course will be a deep dive into George R.R. Martin’s award-winning 1996 novel A Game of Thrones, best known as the source text for HBO’s juggernaut series of the same name that ended this past summer. We all know that dragons and ice zombies do not exist, but the universe is so immersive that it is sometimes conflated with actual history. More accurately, Game of Thrones, and the books on which it is based, represent a mishmash of historical periods, ranging from about the tenth century (the Ironborn and the Vikings) all the way to the sixteenth (the Free Cities and their mercantile empires). We will read the novel over the course of the semester in conversation with not just contemporary criticism, reviews, and interviews, but also a selection of medieval and early modern texts: Machiavelli’s The Prince, the twelfth-century lais of Marie de France, the account of Arab diplomat Ibn Fadlān’s travels with the Vikings, and a thirteenth-century French romance, Silence, which features many tropes that recur in Game of Thrones, particularly in the character arcs of Brienne of Tarth and Arya Stark.
We will also look at specific scenes from the official graphic novel and view several episodes from the first season of Game of Thrones to consider the complexities of adaptation between different media. Students may explore other transmedia extensions (e.g. tabletop games, video games, podcasts, cosplay, fanfiction, fanart) in presentations and research projects, and will have the opportunity to produce creative work of their own. A word of warning: The night is dark and full of spoilers.